Adaptation of evidence-based approaches to promote HIV testing and treatment engagement among high-risk Nigerian youth
Lisa M Kuhns, Amy K Johnson, Adedotun Adetunji, Kehinde M Kuti, Robert Garofalo, Olayinka Omigbodun, Olutosin A Awolude, Bibilola D Oladeji, Baiba Berzins, Ogochukwu Okonkwor, Oluwaseun P Amoo, Omolade Olomola, Babafemi Taiwo
Background: Nigeria has the second highest number of people living with HIV (PLWH) globally, and evidence-based approaches are needed to achieve national goals to identify, treat, and reduce new infections. Youth between the ages of 15-24, including young men who have sex with men (YMSM), are disproportionately impacted by the Nigerian HIV epidemic. The purpose of this study was to inform adaptation of evidence-based peer navigation and mHealth approaches (social media outreach to promote HIV testing; short messaging service text message reminders to promote HIV treatment engagement) to the local context within iCARE Nigeria, a multi-phase study designed to investigate combination interventions to promote HIV testing and care engagement among youth in Nigeria.
Methods: To elicit expert and community perspectives, a local group of advisors from academia, community, and governmental sectors provided feedback on intervention adaptation, which then informed a series of focus groups with stakeholders in Ibadan, Nigeria. Focus group data were collected over a period of three days in December of 2018. Participants in focus groups included YMSM and HIV-positive youth in care ages 16-24, and HIV service providers from local AIDS service organizations (ASO). Groups were stratified by HIV serostatus, gender, and stakeholder type. Focus group sessions were conducted using a semi-structured interview guide, audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed using a content analysis approach.
Results: Local experts recommended intervention adaptations specific to the status of peer navigators as volunteers, peer characteristics (slightly older age, high maturity level, HIV/YMSM status), and intervention characteristics and resources (low navigator to peer ratio; flexible matching by demographic and social characteristics; social media platforms and content). Five focus group discussions with stakeholders, including 27 participants were conducted to elicit feedback on these and other potential adaptations. Youth participants (n = 21) were mean age 20 years (range = 16-24); 76% HIV-positive, 76% men and 48% MSM. Service providers (n = 6) represented both HIV prevention and care services. Participants across stratified subgroups reported largely positive perceptions and high perceived acceptability of both mHealth and peer navigation strategies, and echoed the recommendations of the advisory group for volunteer-based navigators to promote altruism, with a low navigator-peer ratio (1:5). Participants emphasized the need to incorporate minimal mobile data use strategies and popular social media platforms among YMSM (e.g., Facebook, Grindr) for widespread access and reach of the interventions.
Conclusions: In Ibadan, Nigeria, stakeholders support the adaptation of combined mHealth and peer navigation strategies to promote HIV testing and care engagement among high-risk youth. Recommended adaptations for the local context reflect concerns about the feasibility and sustainability of the intervention and are expected to improve accessibility and acceptability.