Young Black men who have sex with men and transgender persons (YBMSMT) aged 13-29 carry the nation’s highest burden of new HIV infections. Studies indicate that YBMSMT have poor retention in care, which is associated with reduced medication adherence and increased virologic failure.
Project nGage is a randomized controlled (RCT) trial evaluating the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of a brief, dyadic intervention designed to promote adherence to HIV primary care in safety-net clinics. Network visualization is used to identify and engage a support confidant (SC) from participants’ social networks. A social work interventionist then meets with the SC and SC-participant dyad to activate and maintain HIV-specific social support.
Project nGage is operating in two phases. In Phase I, the Team refined study protocols based on pilot testing. In Phase II, 94 HIV infected YBMSMT ages 16-29 will be recruited, enrolled and randomly assigned to receive Project nGage or treatment as usual (TAU). The primary outcome is appointment attendance; the secondary outcomes are medication adherence and viral load.
Implementation challenges include coordinating sites, managing dyadic intervention logistics, and recruiting non-adherent patients or those who have fallen out of care. The team continues to address implementation issues as the study progresses.
Project nGage is addressing a gap in HIV care-related research by focusing on supportive relationships as a mechanism through which to promote retention in care. Pending study results, a larger RCT would compare the relative effectiveness of the Project nGage intervention versus TAU over 18 to 24 months.