Adherence to medications for HIV prevention and treatment is essential to reducing HIV transmission risk and improving health outcomes. Adherence to these medications remain insufficient in several key populations, however. Understanding how partnership types and dynamics may encourage or hinder HIV medication adherence is necessary to improving adherence rates among important sub-groups, including young men who have sex with men (YMSM), serodiscordant couples, and adolescent girls.
My first paper identified the partnership and housing factors associated with adherence to oral PrEP among YMSM. PrEP adherence was relatively low in the study, declining from 46% at baseline to 39% at study conclusion. PrEP adherence was significantly associated with increasing age (OR=1.35; 95% CI: 1.14, 1.60), and race (African-Americans vs. other OR=0.37, 95% CI: 0.21, 0.66). Relationship type, length, and depth, number of partners, and partner’s HIV status were not significantly associated with adherence. PrEP adherence was associated with housing insecurity, including ever being kicked out of the home (AOR=0.43; 95% CI: 0.18, 1.04), and the Housing Insecurity Index (AOR=0.64; 95% CI: 0.44, 0.93). PrEP adherence was also associated with privacy, including number of people living in the residence (AOR=0.82; 95% CI: 0.71, 0.95), sleeping in a private bedroom (AOR=2.10, 95% CI: 1.01, 4.40), and the Lack of Privacy Index (AOR=0.82; 95% CI: 0.71, 0.95). YMSM did not modify their PrEP-taking depending on relationship risk. Housing insecurity and lack of privacy may hinder PrEP adherence among YMSM.
My second paper determined whether HIV viral suppression was associated with partnership status and partnership support among HIV-positive individuals and serodiscordant couples in Brazil. Viral suppression did not significantly differ between HIV-positive partnered (79% virally suppressed) and unpartnered (76% virally suppressed) individuals. Among individuals in partnerships, viral load suppression was significantly associated with having partners who attended monthly visits (AOR=2.99; 95% CI: 1.00, 8.93); among women in partnerships, viral load suppression was significantly associated with having a partner who actively reminded them to take ART (AOR=2.67; 95% CI: 1.04, 6.88). Practical measures of social support, including attending monthly visits and reminding a partner to take ART, may improve viral suppression among HIV-positive individuals in serodiscordant partnerships.
My third paper assessed the product, relationship, and sex factors that affect acceptability of a vaginal ring (VR) for HIV prevention among adolescent girls aged 15 to 17 years. Product factors were most frequently mentioned as barriers to VR acceptability. Many participants reported concerns about the large size of the VR upon first impression, and some reported pain with VR insertion. Several participants reported concerns regarding cleanliness of the VR, particularly during menstruation. Relationship factors rarely appeared to act as barriers to VR acceptability; the majority of participants disclosed VR use to their sexual partners, and positive reactions from sexual partners regarding the VR were common. Emotional and/or physical discomfort surrounding VR use during sex was mentioned occasionally as a potentially barrier to VR acceptability.
Relationship factors appear to be important in several populations for adherence to HIV-related medications. YMSM in high-risk sexual relationships may not modify PrEP-taking, leaving them at risk for HIV acquisition. Among serodiscordant couples, practical measures of partnership support may improve ART adherence and promote viral suppression. While adolescent girls most often reported that product-related factors inhibited VR acceptability, lack of partnership disclosure, negative partner reactions, and discomfort during sex may hinder VR acceptability among some girls.