RFP: Data Collection for a Randomised HIV Study

FHI 360 South Africa
Please note: this opportunity closing date has passed and may not be available any more.
Opportunity closing date: 
Friday, 22 May, 2015
Opportunity type: 
Call for proposals
RFP Title:
Data Collection for a randomized study evaluating an intervention integrating economic strengthening and HIV prevention programs for vulnerable youth in South Africa
RFP Number: 3569023-102-2015-03
Issue Date:
May 14, 2015
The ASPIRES Project

The key dates for this RFP process are shown below:
May 14, 2015 - RFP released to potential subcontractors.
May 22, 2015 - Submission of proposal due by 5 pm EST via email to Whitney Moret at wmoret@fhi360.org and copy to Meredith Cann at mcann@fhi360.org.
June  4, 2015 -  Selected candidate notified.
Dec 1, 2015 - Anticipated contract start date. Start date is subject to change. 


The purpose of this Request for Proposals (RFP) is to solicit applications for a subcontract to implement, in coordination with FHI 360, the research study titled “A randomized study evaluating an intervention integrating economic strengthening and HIV prevention programs for vulnerable youth in South Africa.”

The Accelerating Strategies for Practical Innovation and Research in Economic Strengthening (ASPIRES) project is managed by FHI 360, a non-profit human development organization.  ASPIRES supports evidence-based, gender-sensitive programming to improve the economic security and well-being outcomes of vulnerable families and children, particularly those infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS, and others at high risk of acquiring HIV. ASPIRES is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), under Award No. AID-OAA-LA-13-00001. 

The overarching goal of PEPFAR in South Africa is to support Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) programs that mitigate of the impact of HIV, TB and STIs on orphans and other children made vulnerable by HIV and AIDS and their families. Working in collaboration with five South African implementing partners (IPs), ASPIRES seeks to reduce insecurity and vulnerability of OVC aged 13 to 17 with economic strengthening (ES) interventions. The ES package of activities will focus on adolescents, encouraging savings and building financial literacy and fluency. These activities will be combined with an HIV prevention intervention (informed by technical assistance from ASPIRES) to improve communication skills and HIV knowledge for stronger sexual negotiation skills to realize an AIDS-free generation. The goal of the integrated ES and HIV education intervention is to strengthen the economic capacities of vulnerable adolescents infected and affected by HIV/AIDS  and improve their economic security in the longer term with support to access further education, training and entrepreneurial activities. This RFP does not concern the technical assistance or the implementation of the interventions, but rather the evaluation research that will be applied to those interventions with one of the IPs.

In addition to numerous technical assistance activities, ASPIRES proposes a robust research agenda to evaluate these interventions designed to improve economic and health outcomes for HIV-affected households, including the research study titled “A randomized study evaluating an intervention integrating economic strengthening and HIV prevention programs for vulnerable youth in South Africa.”  The purpose of this study is to assess whether the integration of an economic strengthening (ES) program with an HIV-prevention education program produces synergistic effects on economic and health outcomes, i.e., do integrated models work? To answer this question, we will conduct a full factorial randomized controlled trial (RCT). By necessity, the study will focus on one pre-selected IP from among the five involved in the project; the selected IP works in the greater Pretoria area, hence all research relevant to this RFP will be focused there. Youth, aged 14-17, from four communities located in the area served by the IP (Mamelodi, Mamelodi East, Nellmapius, and Olievenhoutsbosch), will be randomly assigned to one of four arms: economic strengthening (ES) intervention only, HIV prevention education only, ES + HIV prevention education combined, and no intervention (control). (Table 1) 

Table 1. Full factorial RCT design       

ES + HIV prevention HIV prevention only
ES only No intervention (control)


The objective of this RFP is to identify a subcontractor to, in coordination with FHI 360, implement the research study titled “A randomized study evaluating an intervention integrating economic strengthening and HIV prevention programs for vulnerable youth in South Africa” during the period set forth in this RFP, from approximately June 1, 2015 – Jan 30, 2018. The Recipient will be responsible for the data collection activities associated with the study, as well as for providing input during analysis and dissemination. Below is a brief summary of the work plan.


The Recipient will be responsible for implementation logistics, obtaining necessary local and national approvals, data collection activities, liaising with the IP as appropriate, providing feedback for primary data analysis, and developing and implementing dissemination and research utilization plans. A separate RFP is posted for an organization to collect and test biological samples (urine) for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy, and provide referrals for positive cases. Joint proposals for both roles will be considered.

The activities to be conducted under this subcontract must be done in accordance with the approved protocol and standards of research ethics, and any subsequent approved revisions, which provide a detailed description of activities. A study manual or set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) will also be developed. The Recipient will review and provide feedback on these materials.

Activities under this scope are expected to include:

  • Provide logistical and contextual feedback on the study protocol, instruments, documents, and other areas as needed.
  • Coordinate with appropriate stakeholders and partners in project planning, implementation, and monitoring.
  • Draft data dissemination and research utilization plans.
  • Conduct preparatory activities including but not limited to application to local IRB, other national or local approvals as necessary, and translation, as needed, of study documents.
  • Contact participants, screen, enroll, and arrange for data collection of ~2,000 of the IP’s beneficiaries aged 14 to 17 years based on a list of participants provided by the IP responsible for conducting the ES and HIV curriculum.
  • Generate data collection plans, including logistics and tracking participants over the study period, timeline, locations, supervision, and quality control measures.
  • Translate approximately five consent forms, four instruments, and other study documents, as needed, into Sotho, Tswana, and Zulu and pilot test instruments in study communities. 
  • Design and test Audio Computer-Assisted Self-Interview (ACASI) electronic data collection system for one instrument for the in-person interviews.  Interview should be available in English, Sotho, Tswana, and Zulu.
  • Preference to have the Recipient develop and test database for double data entry of clinical data using EpiData data entry software or an equivalent program.  Note:  clinical data (STI and pregnancy test results) will be delivered to Recipient by another organization.
  • Develop data management plan, including data entry procedures, storage of instruments and data over the study period, and protection of participant confidentiality.
  • Identify, hire, and supervise qualified staff as needed to complete activities.  Data collection staff must be able to read English, and at least one of the languages used in the study communities (Sotho, Tswana, or Zulu).  Previous experience conducting research with youth in the study communities is preferred.  Please describe staff qualifications in application.
  • In collaboration with FHI 360, prepare for, participate in, and arrange for initial study training for all study staff members on study methods, instruments, and research ethics and relevant post-training activities.
  • In collaboration with FHI 360, prepare for, participate in, and arrange for a qualitative data collection training for relevant data collectors and study team members.
  • Obtain parental/guardian consent and youth’s assent prior to study participation.
  • Conduct data collection activities:
    • In-person interviews for all youth participants (~2,000 youths) at three separate study visits: Baseline (enrollment), Endline 1 (~9 months after enrollment), and Endline 2 (~18 months after enrollment).
      • Recipient will collect detailed information on ES indicators, HIV risk indicators, and other relevant social/behavioral metrics using ACASI.  The in-person interview is expected to last about 1 hour.
      • Study visits will be conducted in schools located in the study communities after school hours and on weekends, including holidays. 
      • During each study visit, after participants complete the in-person ACASI interview, the Recipient will send participants to the clinical partner for STI and pregnancy counseling and urine collection (same location—in schools).
    • After Endline 1 data is gathered, Recipient will conduct qualitative in-depth interviews lasting approximately one hour for:
      • 36 youth participants
      • 36 caregivers of youth participants
      • 12 programmatic staff from the IP
    • After Endline 2 data is gathered, Recipient will conduct qualitative in-depth interviews lasting approximately one hour for:
      • 36 youth participants (same participants as before)
      • 36 caregivers of youth participants (maybe different participants from before)
      • 12 programmatic staff from the IP (same participants as before)
    • Gather costing data from IP throughout intervention implementation phase using spreadsheets developed by FHI 360.
    • Gather program implementation data from IP throughout intervention implementation phase using forms developed by FHI 360.
  • Coordinate with clinical partner collecting and testing biological samples.
  • Provide reimbursements to study participants as follows:
    • For each study visit (baseline, endline 1 and endline 2), participants will receive a snack and 150 ZAR gift voucher for a local shop that sells clothes and stationery
    • For each in-depth interview, participants will receive 50 ZAR gift voucher for a local shop that sells clothes and stationery.
  • Transcribe verbatim and translate into English in-depth interview transcripts.
  • Double data entry of clinical data (STI and pregnancy test results) into EpiData or an equivalent database.  Clinical data will be delivered to Recipient by the clinical partner.
  • Monitor and clean data.
  • Submit all data collection reports and transcripts regularly to FHI 360.
  • Work with FHI 360 to document lessons learned and best practices in the data collection and field implementation process; draft and submit written reports on field implementation lessons learned.
  • Arrange for and, in collaboration with FHI 360, disseminate study findings.
  • Contribute to preparation of project reports and manuscripts, potentially including co-authorship of primary reports.
  • Submit monthly financial reports.
  • Provide logistical support upon request to FHI 360 staff for research monitoring or other collaborative visits.
  • Submit regular work updates and participate in regular calls with FHI 360. Maintain open communication with FHI 360, particularly with respect to any changes in implementation, social harms, or other concerns that may arise. 

Figure 1. Data collection activities spanning 18 months

FHI 360’s ASPIRES Team will be responsible for:

  • Formal communications between USAID and the subcontractor
  • Oversight of protocol and instrument development
  • Providing randomization procedures and materials
  • Oversight of the quality and ethical conduct of the research
  • IRB submission in the United States
  • Data analysis (with feedback from the Recipient)
  • Dissemination of findings (with assistance from the Recipient)

Below is estimate of the timeline. The Recipient would need to exhibit flexibility in timelines dependent on outside factors.



There will be a primary peer reviewed publication of the study lead by the FHI 360 Project Leader, which must precede any publication or presentation of the results by the site investigator(s). All publications or presentations will conform to current FHI 360 policies and procedures (copies of these documents will be provided to all collaborators). The research site may not publish data collected in this study without prior written approval from FHI 360.
Collaborators must discuss and agree upon any planned publication before submission. Negative results will also be submitted for publication. Publications derived from this study should include input from the site investigator(s) and FHI 360. Such input should be reflected in publication authorship, and whenever possible, preliminary agreement regarding the strategy for order of authors’ names should be established before conducting the study.
All publications will include the following statement “Support for this study was provided by FHI 360 with funds from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of FHI 360 or USAID.”
FHI 360 reserves the right to modify the assessment strategy (and this SOW) at any time, based on results and experience.


The mechanism for funding will be a cost-reimbursement subcontract.
The ceiling for this award is US$550,000.


Proposals must be prepared in English and delivered electronically by 5:00 pm EST in accordance with the instructions on page 1.
All submissions should include: 

  1. Description of methodology and proposed approach for the research as described in the Scope of Work section above (max 8 pages) demonstrating:
    1. Professional experience and credentials.
    2. Overall solid experience in conducting public health and/or economic development studies.
    3. Solid experience organizing and managing large field teams for complicated data collection tasks.
    4. Ability to submit and obtain ethics approval (particularly within South Africa) for similar research.
    5. Ability to reach and connect with ethics committees and government officials to obtain necessary authorizations for data collection.

Agencies must also provide a description of location(s) of presence relevant to this RFP.  Agencies with research experience in the greater Pretoria area are preferred.

  1. A summary (max. 2 pages) of expertise and experience, highlighting those aspects that are
    particularly relevant to the present assignment.
  2. CV or resume (5 pages maximum each) for key personnel.
  3. Name and contact details for three relevant references.
  4. Workplan and timeline for completing required tasks.
  5. Budget and budget narrative, including:
    1. A detailed line item budget, budget narrative, and supporting documentation that clearly describe how the budgeted amounts are calculated must support the applicant’s budget. A brief narrative explanation and justification for each line item must be included in a separate section entitled “budget narrative” and include data to support actual costs and/or methodologies to support cost estimates. The budget narrative serves as justification for each cost included in a budget; should be presented in such a way as to be easily referenced from the budget; and should provide sufficient information so that FHI 360 may review a proposed budget for reasonableness.  All projected costs must be in accordance with the organization’s standard practices and policies.
    2. Budgets must be sufficiently detailed to demonstrate reasonableness and completeness.  Applications including budget information determined to be unreasonable, incomplete, unnecessary for the completion of the proposed project, or based on a methodology that is not adequately supported may be deemed unacceptable.
    3. Budgets should be submitted in applicant’s local currency. Please note that FHI 360 cannot honor exchange rates included in a budget.  Payments will be made according to the exchange rate at the time of payment.
    4. Please indicate the inclusion/exclusion of any applicable taxes such as VAT.

FHI 360/ASPIRES will accept questions from interested parties through 5:00 pm EST on the date noted on Page 1.  Questions will only be accepted in writing. All emailed questions must contain the subject line “FHI 360/ASPIRES – RCT 1 Data Collection.”

Applications received under this Request will be evaluated and ranked by a committee, in accordance with the following criteria:

  1. Capabilities and Experience: reflects understanding of the ASPIRES scope and matches firm's capacities with required activities
  1. Geographical experience, including working with local IRB
  2. Experience researching impact of economic development programs and/or public health programs
  3. Qualitative and quantitative data collection experience
  4. Experience partnering with other organizations, local and international
  5. Ability to submit and obtain ethics approval (particularly within South Africa) for similar research.
  6. Ability to reach and connect with ethics committees and government officials to obtain necessary authorizations for data collection.
  1. Personnel: relevance of organizational experience to the proposed task.
    1. Key personnel qualifications
  2. Past Performance
    1. At least three strong references demonstrated success working with large, complex research studies
  3. Budget
  1. Cost reasonableness: proposed price costs reflect a clear understanding of the requirements stated in this RFP, and are consistent with the various elements of the application.
  2. Proposed price is reasonable in comparison with proposed prices received in response to the solicitation.
Evaluation Criteria Points
Capabilities and Past Performance/Experience 40
Personnel 15
Past Performance 15
Budget 30
TOTAL 100 pts

Disclaimers and FHI 360 Protection Clauses

  1. FHI 360 may cancel solicitation and not award.
  2. FHI 360 may reject any or all responses received.
  3. Issuance of solicitation does not constitute award commitment by FHI 360.
  4. FHI 360 reserves the right to disqualify any offer based on offeror failure to follow solicitation instructions.
  5. FHI 360 will not compensate offerors for response to solicitation.
  6. FHI 360 reserves the right to issue award based on initial evaluation of offers without further discussion.
  7. FHI 360 may choose to award only part of the activities in the solicitation, or issue multiple awards based on the solicitation activities.
  8. FHI 360 reserves the right to waive minor proposal deficiencies that can be corrected prior to award determination to promote competition.
  9. FHI 360 will be contacting offerors to confirm contact person, address and that bid was submitted for this solicitation.

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