Objective: We pilot tested a Motivational Interviewing (MI) -based counseling intervention for individuals with Acute HIV Infection (AHI) to reduce risky sexual behavior in Lilongwe, Malawi.
Methods: Twenty-eight individuals diagnosed with AHI were randomized to receive either brief education alone, or the brief education plus the MI-based intervention, called Uphungu Wanga. Participants in Uphungu Wanga received four sessions delivered on the day of diagnosis, three days later and at weeks 1 and 2 with a booster session at week 8; participants were followed for 24 weeks from diagnosis. An interviewer administered quantitative questionnaire was conducted at baseline and at weeks 2, 4, 8, 12, 16, 20 and 24. Semi-structured qualitative interviews (SSI) were conducted at weeks 2, 8, 12, and 24.
Results: The majority of participants in both arms reported rapid and sustained behavior change following diagnosis with AHI. Very few participants reported having sex without a condom after diagnosis. Participants reported a trend towards fewer sex partners and abstaining from sex during study follow-up. Participants in the MI-based arm provided concrete examples of risk reduction strategies in the SSIs while those in the brief education arm primarily described reducing risk behavior, suggesting that the MI-based group may have acquired more risk reduction skills.
Conclusions: Individuals in both study arms reduced risky sexual behaviors after diagnosis with AHI. We found few major differences between study arms during the 6-month follow up period in self-reported sexual behaviors therefore a MI-based intervention may not be needed to trigger behavior change following AHI. However, comparing the MI-based intervention to repeated brief education sessions made it difficult to assess the potential benefit of an MI-based intervention in a setting where standard counseling often consists of one post-test session. Nevertheless, provision of counseling immediately following diagnosis with HIV to support behavior change should remain a priority.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01197027.