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Identifying Strategies for Improving Pre-exposure Prophylaxis Adherence: Perspectives from a Sample of Highly Adherent Young Men Who Have Sex with Men

Xavier Hall CD, Bundy C, Foran JE, Newcomb ME, Carrillo H, Watkins-Hayes C, Mustanski B.

AIDS and Behavior

Most research on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) adherence and persistence uses a deficit-based approach to identify negative influences on PrEP adherence; however, an alternative set of approaches (such as resilience, asset-based, and positive variation) may identify equally important positive influences on PrEP adherence. Thus, the current study presents qualitative perspectives of PrEP adherence strategies from a sample of adherent YMSM. PrEP-using YMSM living in the Chicago area from a larger cohort study were recruited into a 90-day diary study that measured sexual health behaviors including PrEP use. A subset (n = 28) were then recruited for in-depth interviews between April and September 2020 covering topics of PrEP use and adherence. Thematic analysis was used to interpret patterns within the data. The analytic sample (n = 19) consistently reported high levels of adherence. Adherence strategies were organized into three broader categories: psychological (e.g. mindfulness, pill auditing), technical/instrumental (e.g. automated reminders, pill organizers), and social strategies (e.g. checking in with friends, or getting suggestions from friends). The majority of participants described using multiple strategies and changing strategies to respond to barriers to adherence. Other themes that were related to adherence included having a daily medication history and a generally positive outlook toward the PrEP regimen. Those who had medication histories were able to draw from experience to develop strategies for PrEP adherence. Findings suggest the need for pre-emptive counseling for PrEP-initiators on the use of multiple strategies, how to prepare for PrEP adherence, to adapt to challenges, and to adopt a range of potential strategies for adherence.

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