Development and Preliminary Pilot Testing of a Peer Support Text Messaging Intervention for HIV-Infected Black Men Who Have Sex With Men

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Background:Black men who have sex with men (MSM) are disproportionately infected with HIV and are less well retained along the HIV continuum of care. We report on the feasibility of a peer support text messaging intervention designed to increase retention in HIV care and HIV medication adherence among HIV-infected black men who have sex with men.Methods:Based on formative research, a cell phone app was developed to support a peer-based text messaging intervention. The app allowed the researchers to view text messages sent between mentors and mentees, but did not allow them to view other text messages sent by these phones. Three HIV-infected black men who have sex with men were recruited to serve as volunteer peer mentors. They were trained in motivational techniques, peer support skills, and skills for improving appointment attendance and medication adherence. Mentees (N = 8) received the intervention for 1 month. Mentees completed a postintervention survey and interview.Results:The peer mentor text messaging intervention was feasible. Mentors delivered support in a nonjudgmental, motivational way. However, technical and other implementation problems arose. Some mentees desired more frequent contact with mentors, and mentors reported that other commitments made it difficult at times to be fully engaged. Both mentors and mentees desired more personalized contact (ie, phone calls).Conclusions:A text messaging peer mentor intervention was feasible. Additional research with a larger sample is needed to determine optimal ways to improve mentors' engagement in the intervention and to determine intervention acceptability and efficacy. In future studies, peer support phone calls could be incorporated.

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