Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) uptake has been slow among young men who have sex with men (YMSM), particularly those of color who experience a high rate of new HIV infections in the United States. Limited PrEP knowledge, unfamiliarity with how to access PrEP, medical mistrust, and stigma around HIV and sexuality are barriers to PrEP care engagement among YMSM, including those of color. Peer-driven social network interventions that train individuals as peer educators to disseminate information about HIV prevention and treatment within their social networks have been implemented to address similar barriers and improve HIV outcomes within hard to reach populations. YMSM of color engaged in HIV/PrEP care often employ resilience processes to overcome socio-structural barriers to HIV prevention and care. As such, training YMSM of color engaged in HIV/PrEP care as peer PrEP educators may position them as credible sources of PrEP information who can influence behavior change (i.e., PrEP care engagement) among YMSM peers of color within their social networks via their ability to disseminate culturally competent PrEP messages in the context of their personal experiences using these resilience processes to navigate the healthcare system, medical mistrust, and stigma. Drawing on existing peer-driven social network interventions, the diffusion of innovations and information-motivation-behavioral skills models, Harper et al.'s resilience framework, as well as data from our recent focus groups, the proposed R34 will develop and pilot Onboarding Positives and PrEP users to Engage Negatives (OPPEN), a peer-driven PrEP education social network intervention, among YMSM of color (Latino or Black) in San Diego, California. Through three small-group and two one-on-one sessions, OPPEN will train YMSM of color engaged in HIV/PrEP care to be peer PrEP educators within their social networks. In Phase I, OPPEN will be developed, pretested, and refined using an iterative process that integrates feedback from YMSM of color and interviews with HIV-positive and PrEP-using YMSM of color trained via OPPEN and YMSM peers of color within their social networks (AIM 1). In Phase II, OPPEN will be piloted in a randomized controlled trial with 70 YMSM of color engaged in HIV/PrEP care (i.e., indexes; 50% HIV-positive) randomly assigned to OPPEN (n=35) or a time- and attention-matched control condition (n=35). All indexes will receive coupons to recruit YMSM peers of color within their social networks to the study. Peers who present at the study site (i.e., peer-recruits) will undergo HIV testing. HIV-negative peer-recruits interested in PrEP will be scheduled for a PrEP clinic visit. Data collected via surveys (baseline and 3-month study visits) and medical records will be used to evaluate the preliminary effect of OPPEN on PrEP interest, linkage, and uptake among peer-recruits (AIM 2) and theory-based mechanisms targeted by OPPEN among indexes and peer-recruits (AIM 3). OPPEN acceptability and feasibility will be evaluated using a mixed-methods approach (AIM 4). Findings will be used to further refine OPPEN and inform a future R01 efficacy trial.
HIV incidence in the United States is highest among young men who have sex with men (YMSM) of color, but HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) uptake has been low within this population. This study will develop the Onboarding Positives and PrEP users to Engage Negatives (OPPEN) intervention to train HIV-positive and PrEP-using YMSM of color to promote PrEP use among HIV-negative YMSM peers of color within their social networks. OPPEN will then be piloted to evaluate its acceptability, feasibility, and preliminary effect on PrEP care engagement among YMSM of color.