$251,173 Fed Study Uses Social Media to Promote HIV Drug Among Peruvian Transgenders

By Melanie Arter | February 25, 2015 | 3:46pm EST

Men kiss under a rainbow umbrella during a gay pride parade in Lima, Peru, Saturday, June 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Sebastian Castaneda)

(CNSNews.com) – The National Institutes of Health has awarded $251,173 in taxpayer funds to the University of California Los Angeles to use “social-network based intervention” to promote the use of an HIV-prevention drug regimen among "transgender women" in Peru.

“Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is an important new tool for HIV prevention, but is highly dependent on patient adherence,” the grant abstract said. Adherence, it said, is “influenced by individual, social, and structural factors.”

A study conducted in France and Canada shows that Truvada – a pill that combines two AIDS drugs – when taken before and after unprotected sex by gay men proves effective in preventing transmission of the HIV virus. Currently, daily use of Truvada is used to prevent HIV infection in people at high risk for it, the Associated Press reports.

Researchers for the NIH-funded grant will provide Truvada daily to participants for the six-month study period.

“We propose a social network-based intervention to promote PrEP adherence among transgender women (TW) in Lima, Peru,” the grant said. The intervention will take on a three-pronged approach.

First, the project will use formative research, which consists of semi-structured interviews and focus groups.

Secondly, they will “conduct an open evaluation of a social network-based PrEP adherence intervention for TW in Peru” with a small pilot group of five to 10 transgender women. “Data will be used to finalize the study design and assessment tools for a pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT).”

And third, researchers will conduct a pilot randomized controlled trial of a “social network-based PrEP adherence intervention” for transgender women in Peru, which will consist of randomizing “8 social network-based clusters” of transgender women to either: “a network-based PrEP adherence intervention or standardized PrEP adherence counseling.”

“The primary outcome will be PrEP adherence. The intervention will use a combination of individual counseling, group workshops, social media-based network interactions, and practical support tools to promote PrEP adherence among TW,” the grant said.

Participants will take part in two biweekly individual counseling sessions, which will address PrEp adherence use and HIV prevention. “The goals of individual counseling are to introduce PrEP as an HIV prevention tool and address basic issues of PrEP adherence as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy,” the grant stated.

“Group workshops will establish a common understanding of PrEP as a central component of comprehensive HIV prevention, address the importance of PrEP adherence, develop practical strategies to support adherence, and generate and maintain norms of HIV prevention and and PrEP adherence within the peer group,” it added.

“Findings will be used to support an NIH-funded R01 proposal using social networks of TW and social media technologies to generate, implement, and reinforce new social norms of PrEP adherence, sexual risk behavior, and HIV prevention,” the grant said.

The project and budget start date are both listed as Aug. 1, 2014, and the project ends on July 31, 2017, while the funding ends on July 31, 2015.

CNSNews.com contacted Jesse Lawton Clark, project leader of the grant, by email for comment, but no response was given by press time.

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