JMIR research protocols 2016 08 255(3) e168 doi 10.2196/resprot.6271
An estimated one- to two-thirds of new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections among US men who have sex with men (MSM) occur within the context of primary partnerships. Thus, HIV interventions that recognize and harness the power of relationships are needed. Increasingly, HIV prevention efforts are being directed toward improving engagement across the HIV care continuum from testing to linkage to care, antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence, engagement in care, and viral suppression. However, to our knowledge, no behavioral interventions have attempted to address the HIV care continuum using a dyadic approach.
The objective of this paper is to describe the development of and protocol for an innovative couples-based approach to improving treatment adherence and engagement in care among HIV serodiscordant and concordant HIV-positive same sex male couples in the United States.
We developed the Partner Steps intervention by drawing from relationship-oriented theory, existing efficacious individual-level ART adherence interventions, couple-focused HIV prevention interventions, and expert consultation. We incorporated new content to address all aspects of the HIV care continuum (eg, linkage to and retention in care) and to draw on relationship strengths through interactive activities.
The resulting theory-based Partner Steps intervention is delivered by a trained bachelors-level counselor (interventionist) over 2 in-person sessions with male-male dyads in which at least 1 partner has recent suboptimal engagement in HIV care. Each session is designed to use relationship strengths to increase motivation for HIV care and treatment, and cover sequential intervention "steps" relating to specific challenges in HIV care engagement and barriers to ART adherence. For each step, couples work with a trained interventionist to identify their unique challenges, actively problem-solve with the interventionist, and articulate and commit to working together to implement a plan in which each partner agrees to complete specific tasks.
We drew on theory and evidence to develop novel intervention strategies that leverage strengths of relationships to address engagement across the entire HIV care continuum. We provide details on intervention development and content that may be of use to researchers as well as medical and mental health professionals for whom a dyadic approach to HIV prevention and care may best suit their patient population.