Couples ART Adherence Intervention for PWID in Kazakhstan

  • End date
    Jun 10, 2024
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Columbia University
Updated on 10 April 2023
drug use
antiretroviral agents
antiretroviral therapy
behavioral therapy
injection drug
Accepts healthy volunteers


The fastest growing HIV epidemics globally are driven by injection drug use, but only a small percentage of HIV-positive people who inject drugs (PWID) have achieved viral suppression. The proposed project will adapt a couple-based antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence intervention for PWID and assess the feasibility and acceptability of conducting dried blood spot testing to objectively measure ART adherence as part of an intervention in a clinical setting. This project advances HIV intervention science by providing an intervention that leverages social support within the dyad to improve ART adherence among PWID, which could lead to increased viral suppression, thus decreasing HIV transmission and HIV-related morbidity and mortality.


The purpose of this Mentored Research Scientist Development Award (K01) is to provide the candidate with the training and expertise needed to transition to research independence in the science of HIV prevention and intervention. The fastest growing HIV epidemics globally are driven by injection drug use. Central Asia has some of the highest rates of injection drug use and one of the fastest growing HIV epidemics in the world. HIV-positive people who inject drugs (PWID) face many barriers to antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence, such as misperceptions about ART, stigma and substance use. Previous research among this population has shown that couple-based HIV interventions are highly efficacious at reducing risk behaviors, but there is currently no couple-based ART adherence intervention for PWID. The research aims of this proposal are to 1) identify core components of the SMART Couples intervention and other existing ART adherence intervention strategies and assess their appropriateness and feasibility as an integrated, couple-based ART adherence intervention for HIV+ PWID living in Kazakhstan (Phase 1); 2) adapt and refine SMART Couples and identify augmentative intervention strategies to create an integrated, couple-based ART adherence intervention for HIV+ PWID and their primary sex partners using results from Aim 1 (Phase 2); and 3a) pilot test the resulting couple-based intervention among 66 heterosexual PWID couples in Kazakhstan through a randomized control trial to assess the safety, feasibility, and acceptability of the intervention and obtain preliminary estimates of adherence outcomes in the intervention arm versus standard of care; and 3b) assess the feasibility and acceptability of conducting dried blood spot testing as part of an adherence intervention in a clinical setting (Phase 3). The proposed career development plan has been designed to augment the candidate's current training in epidemiology and enable her to 1) gain research skills in the design and adaptation of HIV interventions, with an emphasis on adherence among marginalized populations; 2) obtain methodological expertise in dyad and intensive longitudinal analysis and the triangulation of behavioral, biomedical, and technological data, particularly for the purposes of interpreting and analyzing these types of data to assess intervention efficacy and measure ART adherence; 3) acquire training in the conduct and analysis of qualitative in-depth interviews and focus groups, particularly for designing and adapting HIV interventions and assessing intervention feasibility and acceptability; and 4) increase professional skills for a successful independent research career. These training goals will be achieved through a combination of didactic courses, specialized workshops and seminars, hands-on research, and an interdisciplinary team of experts. The research findings and methodological skills to be gained from this K01 have wide applicability for disease research and high transferability across diverse research settings.

Condition HIV Infections, Substance Use Disorders
Treatment Standard of Care, SMART Couples 2
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT03555396
SponsorColumbia University
Last Modified on10 April 2023


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

couples (n=132) will
participate in a
randomized control trial of the adapted couple-based intervention
Couples are eligible to participate if
both partners are ≥18 years old
both identify each other as their primary sexual partner (e.g. spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, regular sexual partner)
the relationship has existed at least 3 months
both report feeling safe participating with their partner in the study
neither reports any severe physical or sexual violence perpetrated by the other partner in the past year
both are able to provide informed consent and follow study procedures, and
both are fluent in Russian
In addition, the "index case" (partner initially recruited from AIDS Center) must: (1) be
confirmed HIV+ by the AIDS Center, (2) have been on ART at least 3 months, (3) not be
virally suppressed according to the AIDS Center standard (<500 copies/ml), and (4) report
injecting any drug in the past year

Exclusion Criteria

Individuals who do not meet inclusion criteria or who meet any of the following criteria
will be excluded from the study
unable to provide informed consent
unwilling or unable to participate in study procedures
any condition that, in the opinion of the principal investigator and research staff
would make participation in the study unsafe, complicate interpretation of study
outcome data, or otherwise interfere with achieving the study objectives
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