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Translations In Context
Lexicon of HIV-prevention clinical trial terminology


About Translations In Context:
A Database of HIV Prevention Terminology and Translations

Translations in Context is a searchable database containing a lexicon of terms and translations for use in clinical trials of microbicides and other HIV-prevention technologies around the globe. The database was developed by the Population Council as a resource of existing lexicons and translations. Instead of developing and testing terms and translations for each new trial, researchers and communities will be able to use lexicons that have been vetted already in clinical trial communities.

Unlike other terms found in traditional glossaries or dictionaries, the definitions in the Translations in Context database were developed to be as simple as possible to facilitate translation from English into other languages. In addition, terms were defined and translated in the context of specific trial protocols testing particular products. In some cases, terms were defined in a gender-specific manner reflecting the specific trial and context. For example, the definition of "anal sex" was initially developed for use in the Carraguard Phase 3 trial, which enrolled only women. Therefore, the term was defined as "sex with penis in woman's anus" to be simple and clear for translating into the local languages (Setswana, Xhosa and Zulu).  Therefore, although most terms in the database will be transferable to other products and trials, some may need to be broadened or refined for use in new studies and contexts.


Key Features

  • Searchable database contains hundreds of field-tested terms, definitions, and translations. 
    • Includes scientific and medical research terminology
    • Sensitive/neutral terminology for sexual behavior, sexual relationships, reproductive health
  • User-friendly and available with any internet browser.
  • Users can search the database, but not make any changes or add entries.  Unlike Wikipedia, central administration ensures that only terms that have been vetted and found to work in clinical trial communities are included.
  • Currently includes English, Setswana, Spanish, Swahili, Thai, Xhosa, Zulu; other languages can be added.
  • Multiple search options enable translation from:
    • English into X language (e.g. Zulu)
    • X language (e.g. Zulu) into English
    • X language (e.g. Zulu) into Y language (e.g. Xhosa)
  • Users can view and print a list of all terms in the database in their chosen language.
  • A user guide providing step-by-step instructions for searching the database is available on the 'Help' tab. See How to Use the Lexicon of HIV Clinical Trial Terminology

Researchers who have appropriate terms, definitions, or languages vetted in other trials can contact the Administrator to discuss material to be added to the database.

Related Resource
An elicitation tool, developed by FHI360, outlines processes and methods for researchers to create new lexicons in research-naïve settings (which could potentially be added to the database, once tested). See A Toolkit for Developing Bilingual Lexicons for International HIV Prevention Clinical Trials

Background on the Lexicon Database
Using terms and definitions that are appropriate and understood in the local language and setting is critical for achieving participant comprehension and adherence to research protocols and data collection instruments, and to prevent misunderstanding of terms, concepts, and instructions that may skew study results.

The lexicon database incorporates data gathered from previous and ongoing microbicide trials conducted by the Population Council, FHI360, and other institutions.  For example, terms and translations were taken from the Council's Carraguard Phase 3 trial in South Africa, where a lexicon of terminology was developed and tested during the Phase 2 trial in preparation for the Phase 3 trial. A Swahili lexicon was based on a study conducted by FHI360 in Tanzania specifically to develop a methodology for eliciting appropriate translations of research terms and concepts in the local setting.

The Population Council is committed to improving the informed consent process in HIV prevention research. Achieving participant comprehension has proven to be one of the most difficult practical, ethical and regulatory challenges of clinical research. The ultimate goal of this database is to assist local researchers and translators to improve participant comprehension in trial settings where local languages do not have technical vocabularies or terms to communicate scientific concepts and sensitive behavior.