Men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to be the most heavily-impacted risk group in the US HIV epidemic. Studies suggest that the majority of incident HIV infections among MSM are attributable to sex with a main male sex partner;however, HIV prevention interventions that target male-male couples are lacking. Because of this, Couples HIV Voluntary Counseling and Testing (CVCT), an intervention that has been repeatedly shown to reduce HIV transmission within heterosexual couples, has been adapted to US MSM couples. Additionally, novel evidence demonstrates that antiretroviral therapy (ART) not only reduces morbidity and mortality among HIV-positive persons, but also serves to reduce the risk of HIV transmission to a negative partner by 96%. As adherence to ART is modifiable, and levels of peer support have been shown to increase ART adherence, this current study proposes to use CVCT combined with dyadic adherence counseling ("CVTCPlus") to improve linkage to care, retention in care, ART adherence and viral suppression among HIV- sero-discordant male-male couples using a cohort of 250 serodiscordant couples in Atlanta, Boston, and Chicago. Sero-discordant couples (125 in each arm) will be followed for two years, with study visits every six months. At each visit, the HIV-negative partner will be tested for HIV and both partners will complete a study survey measuring social and behavioral factors that may influence adherence, such as a couple's coping ability and their concordance of agreements regarding outside sex partners, and EMR extraction will be used to identify linkage and retention in care and viral suppression. Additionally, couples in the intervention arm will receive adherence counseling specific to data provided by real-time monitoring of ART adherence (via Wisepill). The researchers hypothesize such a couples-based, dyadic adherence intervention will serve to increase ART adherence, linkage and retention in care, and achievement of viral suppression. Understanding of the factors associated with progression towards viral suppression among sero-discordant male couples, and the effectiveness of an intervention aimed at increasing linkage, retention and ARV adherence is vital to inform the development and roll-out of couples'-focused HIV prevention efforts.
From a sample of 3360 MSM in Atlanta, Boston, and Chicago, 250 HIV-serodiscordant couples will be randomized to either Individual or Couples HIV Counseling and Testing, and then followed prospectively for two years. Couples randomized to couples-based counseling and testing will also receive a dyadic adherence intervention, with the research aimed to determine if couples testing together impacts linkage to HIV care, retention in HIV care, ART adherence and viral suppression.
|Bazzi, Angela Robertson; Fergus, Kirkpatrick B; Stephenson, Rob et al. (2016) A Dyadic Behavioral Intervention to Optimize Same Sex Male Couples' Engagement Across the HIV Care Continuum: Development of and Protocol for an Innovative Couples-based Approach (Partner Steps). JMIR Res Protoc 5:e168|