People who inject drugs (PWID) are at risk for HIV and opioid overdose. We piloted PARTNER UP, a telemedicine-based program to provide PWID with access to both oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention and medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) through two syringe services programs (SSPs) in North Carolina. We conducted a qualitative evaluation to assess the acceptability and feasibility of PARTNER UP from the participant perspective.
PARTNER UP participants met with a provider for an initial in-person visit at the SSP, followed by weekly telemedicine visits in month 1 and then monthly telemedicine visits until program end at month 6. Using a qualitative descriptive study design, we conducted in-depth interviews with a subsample of PARTNER UP participants at 1 month and 4 months. Informed by the technology acceptance model, we assessed participant perceptions of the usefulness and ease of use of PARTNER UP, as well as their intent to continue to use the program’s components. We audio-recorded all interviews with participants’ permission and used applied thematic analysis to analyze the verbatim transcripts.
We interviewed 11 of 17 people who participated in PARTNER UP-10 in the month 1 interview and 8 in the month 4 interview. Nearly all participants were motivated to join for consistent and easy access to buprenorphine/naloxone (i.e., MOUD); only a few joined to access PrEP. Most were comfortable accessing healthcare at the SSP because of their relationship with and trust toward SSP staff, and accessing services at the SSP was preferred compared with other healthcare centers. Some participants described that telemedicine allowed them to be honest and share more information because the visits were not in-person and they chose the location, although the initial in-person meeting was helpful to build provider trust and rapport. Most participants found the visit schedule to be feasible, although half described needing to reschedule at least once. Nearly all participants who were interviewed intended to continue with MOUD after the program ended, whereas none were interested in continuing with PrEP.
Participant narratives suggest that the PARTNER UP telemedicine program was acceptable and feasible. Future studies should continue to explore the benefits of embedding both PrEP and MOUD into SSPs with larger numbers of participants. Trial registration Identifier: NCT04521920.

© 2022. The Author(s).