RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Researchers at RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, will be adapting and testing a new biobehavioral intervention — Couples Health CoOp Plus (CHC+) and stigma-reduction training — in Cape Town, South Africa, in partnership with the South African Medical Research Council. The CHC+ study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, aims to increase initiation and adherence of ART and PrEP, and to promote risk reduction behaviors among young women and their primary male partners.
“We are excited to continue our longstanding collaboration with the South African Medical Research Council with key populations at risk for living with HIV,” said Wendee Wechsberg, PhD, principal investigator of the Couples Health CoOp Plus.
In South Africa, an estimated one of every four new HIV infections occur among young women aged 15 to 24. Most of these HIV transmissions occur from male partners. Therefore, it is a critical time to engage both young women and their primary male partner.
This study will adapt the evidence-based Couples Health CoOp (CHC) — an empowerment-based intervention addressing the syndemic of alcohol and other drug (AOD) use, gender-based violence, and sexual risk among South African couples at risk for HIV or living with HIV. This intervention will be modified to incorporate ART and PrEP.
A cluster randomized trial will test the CHC+ intervention and clinic stigma-reduction training. The CHC+ will use a “status-neutral” approach—ensuring similar engagement and retention strategies regardless of HIV status, with the goal of reducing HIV transmission.
“More than ever, with COVID, it is vital to reach young couples who use alcohol,” said Felicia Browne, ScD, MPH, multiple principal investigator, “Especially with the intersection of alcohol use and intimate partner violence.”
The CHC+ study will be the first to rigorously evaluate a biobehavioral intervention for young couples that aims to reduce HIV risk by increasing ART/PrEP uptake and decreasing syndemic-related behaviors in South Africa.