Monrovia - The Partnership for Research on Ebola Virus in Liberia (PREVAIL) on Wednesday held a daylong community engagement and awareness forum with residents and other stakeholders in the Wilson Corner VOA Community in Brewerville, outside Monrovia.
The community was among several communities in Montserrado County that were hit by Ebola at the height of the health crisis in Liberia about two years ago.
The meeting is part of series of community engagements and outreach being conducted by the Liberia Crusaders for Peace, which heads the pillar on community engagement for PREVAIL.
PREVAIL is a joint Liberia-US clinical research partnership that is conducting the Ebola Natural History Study (ENHS) with primary participants being Ebola survivors and their close contacts.
The meeting at Brewerville brought together particularly male Ebola survivors as part of efforts to encourage enrolment into the semen sub-study being conducted by PREVAIL.
Addressing scores of residents at the program held at a local Islamic school, the Communications Lead of PREVAIL, Hassan Kiawu, said the semen sub-study was only for male survivors who were 18 years or above.
The primary goal, according to him, was to find out whether there were still samples of Ebola Virus hiding in the semen of male survivors and find means of getting rid of it entirely from their body.
Kiawu then encouraged the male survivors at the meeting to join their colleagues in enrolling into the study taking place at designated public health facilities across Liberia.
The hospitals, which have all been equipped for the study, are the John F. Kennedy Memorial Medical Center in Monrovia, the Duport Road Health Center in Paynesville and the C.H. Rennie Hospital in Kakata, Margibi County.
Many of the male survivors at the meeting embraced the study following the explanation of the various study protocols by Kiawu. They see the study as one that is in the best interest of the survivor community in Liberia, especially the males.
In June last year during the launch of the Ebola Natural History Study, the Principal Investigator Dr. Mosoka Fallah said the project was aiming to uncover the unknowns that are associated with the virus to optimize clinical care that will provide survivors in Liberia and the world effective prevention and treatment against future Ebola outbreak.
PREVAIL is following the survivors in the research study for a period of five years.
Meanwhile, Dr. Fallah has disclosed plans by PREVAIL to discontinue the birth cohorts program for pregnant Ebola survivors and close contacts impregnated by survivors, because study investigation has so far revealed no sign of Ebola in pregnant female survivors.
On the vaccine study, Dr. Fallah said Liberia has made significant gains and there are plans to use a candidate vaccine in Liberia during Ebola outbreaks.
He was quick to point out that a study called PREVAC intended to inoculate citizens of the three Mano River Union countries will soon begin in Guinea. This will be followed by Sierra Leone and Liberia.
As a result of PREVAIL work, a discussion has now been initiated among the Liberian Ministry of Health, MSF, and Merck (manufacturer of the vaccine) to use the VSV Ebola vaccine as part of the ministry-led public health response to future Ebola outbreaks in Liberia as part of an expanded access research protocol.
Community Engagement head, Amb. Juli Endee, recently told a Ministry of Information Cultural AT press conference thanked the communities for embracing the research studies being conducted by PREVAIL.
Amb Endee said much was achieve in terms of mobilizing the community through the ethics standards and framework. She emphasized that the use of Liberian culture played a pivotal role in changing perceptions of volunteers in the vaccine study and to seek enrolment of survivors.
She praised the NIH, LEIDOS, the American and Liberia governments for the partnership which is helping to find a solution to the problem.
She called on Liberians to be a part of history making by promoting the study through the dissemination of factual information.