Background: The suboptimal rate of viral suppression among persons aged 13 years and older and residing in 37 states and the District of Columbia leaves considerable opportunities for onward transmission and contributes to poor health outcomes. Men who have sex with men (MSM) represent one of the most at-risk groups in the United States. There is a clear and continued need for innovative adherence support programs to optimize viral suppression. To address this gap, we designed and are implementing a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to test the efficacy of the Thrive with Me intervention for MSM living with HIV. Critical components of the protocol are presented.
Objective: The aim of this study is to describe the protocol for rigorously testing the efficacy of Thrive with Me to improve antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence among HIV-positive MSM residing in New York City.
Methods: A community advisory board and beta testing were used to obtain feedback from HIV-positive MSM on the overall look and feel of Thrive with Me and problems with navigation to finalize intervention components and content. We will enroll 400 HIV-positive MSM residing in the New York City area into a two-arm prospective RCT and follow them for 17 months. Men in the Thrive with Me experimental intervention arm will have access to Thrive with Me for 5 months. Thrive with Me has three primary components: (1) a private social networking feature; (2) tailored HIV and ART adherence information; and (3) medication reminders, self-monitoring, and reflection. Gamification components include badges and leveling up to increase intrinsic motivation to engage with the intervention. Men randomized to the control condition will view a weekly newsletter for 5 months. The newsletter will be delivered via email and contains information on topics related to HIV with the exception of ART adherence. Study assessments will occur at enrollment and 5, 11, and 17 months post enrollment. The primary study outcome is HIV viral load, which is considered an objective indicator of ART adherence.
Results: Participant recruitment for the RCT began in October 2016, and the data collection period is anticipated to end in the Fall of 2019.
Conclusions: The efficacy trial of Thrive with Me will help to fill gaps in understanding about the utility of multicomponent, technology-based interventions to improve ART adherence among HIV-positive MSM. Of importance is the ability for the results of the Thrive with Me trial to inform best practices for conducting technology-based interventions that incorporate social media features.