Results of a Couples-Based Randomized Controlled Trial Aimed to Increase Testing for HIV

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Background:Although couples HIV testing and counseling (CHTC) is effective for facilitating mutual disclosure and linkage to HIV care, uptake remains low. Using a randomized controlled design, we tested the efficacy of a behavioral couples-based intervention aimed to increase CHTC.Setting:The Vulindlela district of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.Methods:Couples were recruited from the community (eg, markets and community events). Couples were excluded if mutual HIV serostatus disclosure had occurred. Both partners had to report being each other's primary partner and relationship length was at least 6 months. Assessments occurred at baseline, and 3, 6, and 9 months after intervention. Eligible couples attended a group session (3–4 hours) after which randomization occurred. Intervention couples additionally received: one couples-based group session followed by 4 couples' counseling sessions (1–2 hours). Intervention topics included communication skills, intimate partner violence, and HIV prevention. Our primary outcomes were CHTC and sexual risk behavior.Results:Overall, 334 couples were enrolled. Intervention couples were significantly more likely to have participated in CHTC [42% vs. 12% (P ≤ 0.001)]. In addition, their time to participate in CHTC was significantly shorter (logrank P ≤ 0.0001) (N = 332 couples). By group, 59% of those who tested HIV-positive in intervention and 40% of those who tested in control were new HIV diagnoses (P = 0.18). There were no group differences in unprotected sex.Conclusions:Our intervention improved CHTC uptake—a vehicle for mutual serostatus disclosure and entrée into HIV treatment, both of which exert a significant public health impact on communities substantially burdened by HIV.

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