Exploring behavioral intervention components for African American/Black and Latino persons living with HIV with non-suppressed HIV viral load in the United States: a qualitative study

Sabrina R. Cluesman, Marya Gwadz, Robin Freeman, Linda M. Collins, Charles M. Cleland, Leo Wilton, Robert L. Hawkins, Noelle R. Leonard, Elizabeth Silverman, Carey B. Maslow, Khadija Israel, Amanda Ritchie, Sarah Ory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The persistence of racial/ethnic inequities in rates of engagement along the HIV care continuum signals the need for novel approaches. We developed six behavioral intervention components for use in an optimization trial, grounded in a model that integrates critical race theory, harm reduction, and self-determination theory, designed to address various barriers that African American/Black and Latino persons living with HIV (PLWH) experience to the HIV care continuum. The components were: health education, motivational interviewing sessions, pre-adherence skill building, peer mentorship, focused support groups, and navigation. The present qualitative exploratory study describes participants’ perspectives on the components’ acceptability, feasibility, and impact. Methods: Participants were African American/Black and Latino PLWH poorly engaged in HIV care and with non-suppressed HIV viral load in New York City. From a larger trial, we randomly selected 46 participants for in-depth semi-structured interviews. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim, and data were analyzed using directed content analysis. Quantitative data on sociodemographic and background characteristics and components’ acceptability and feasibility were also collected. Results: On average, participants were 49 years old and had lived with HIV for 19 years. Most were cisgender-male and African American/Black. Participants reported a constellation of serious social and structural challenges to HIV management including chronic poverty, unstable housing, and stigma. Across components, a non-judgmental and pressure-free approach and attention to structural and cultural factors were seen as vital to high levels of engagement, but lacking in most medical/social service settings. Prominent aspects of individual components included establishing trust (health education); developing intrinsic motivation, goals, and self-reflection (motivational interviewing sessions); learning/practicing adherence strategies and habits (pre-adherence skill building); reducing social isolation via peer role models (peer mentorship); reflecting on salient goals and common challenges with peers without stigma (focused support groups); and circumventing structural barriers to HIV management with support (navigation). Components were found acceptable and feasible. Findings suggested ways components could be improved. Conclusions: The present study advances research on interventions for African American/Black and Latino PLWH, who experience complex barriers to engagement along the HIV care continuum. Future study of the components is warranted to address racial/ethnic health inequities in HIV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number22
JournalInternational Journal for Equity in Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • Critical race theory
  • Cultural salience
  • HIV care continuum
  • Harm reduction
  • Intervention components
  • Multiphase optimization strategy (MOST)
  • Optimization trial
  • Qualitative
  • Racial/ethnic inequities
  • Self-determination theory
  • Structural salience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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