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Introduction HIV transmission within serodifferent heterosexual couples plays a key role in sustaining the global HIV pandemic. In the USA, transmission within established mixed-status couples accounts for up to half of all new HIV infections among heterosexuals. Oral HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a highly effective prevention method, although underutilised among serodifferent couples. Moreover, there is a dearth of research on US HIV-serodifferent couples’ perspectives and use of PrEP, alone or in combination with other prevention methods. In this paper, we describe the study protocol for the Magnetic Couples Study, designed to fill critical knowledge gaps regarding HIV-serodifferent heterosexual couples’ perspectives, experiences and utilisation of PrEP.

Methods and analysisThe Magnetic Couples Study is a mixed methods prospective cohort study designed to describe temporal patterns and identify determinants at multiple levels (individual, couple, HCF) of PrEP outcomes along the care continuum (PrEP awareness, linkage, uptake, retention and medication adherence) among HIV-serodifferent heterosexual couples residing in New York City. The study will also examine clinical management of PrEP, side effects and changes in sexual-related and substance use–related behaviour. A prospective cohort of 230 mixed-status couples already on oral PrEP was recruited, with quarterly assessments over 18 months; in addition, a cross-sectional sample of 150 mixed-status couples not currently on PrEP was recruited. In-depth semistructured qualitative interviews were conducted with a subsample of 25 couples. Actor-partner interdependence modelling using multilevel analysis will be employed for the analysis of longitudinal dyadic data. Framework analysis will be used to analyse qualitative data. A parallel convergent design will be used for mixed methods integration.

Ethics and dissemination The study was approved by the University of Rochester Institutional Review Board (RSRB00052766). Study findings will be disseminated to community members and providers and to researchers and policy makers.


This work was originally published in BMJ Open, available at doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2021-048993

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial.

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