Background: Effective yet practical strategies are needed to increase engagement in HIV treatment and prevention services, particularly in high-HIV-prevalence hotspots. We designed a community-based intervention called "Health Scouts" to promote uptake and adherence to HIV services in a highly HIV-prevalent fishing community in Rakai, Uganda. Using a situated Information, Motivation, and Behavioral skills theory framework, the intervention consists of community health workers, called Health Scouts, who use motivational interviewing strategies and mobile health tools to promote engagement in HIV treatment and prevention services.
Methods/design: The Health Scout intervention is being evaluated through a pragmatic, parallel, cluster-randomized controlled trial with an allocation ratio of 1:1. The study setting is a single high-HIV-prevalence fishing community in Rakai, Uganda divided into 40 contiguous neighborhood clusters each containing about 65 households. Twenty clusters received the Health Scout Intervention; 20 clusters received standard of care. The Health Scout intervention is delivered within the community at the household level, targeting all residents aged 15 years or older. The primary programmatic outcomes are self-reported HIV care, antiretroviral therapy, and male circumcision coverage; the primary biologic outcome is population-level HIV viremia prevalence. Follow-up is planned for about 3 years.
Discussion: HIV treatment and prevention service engagement remains suboptimal in HIV hotspots. New, community-based implementation approaches are needed. If found to be effective in this trial, the Health Scout intervention may be an important component of a comprehensive HIV response.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov, ID: NCT02556957 . Registered on 20 September 2015.
Keywords: Adherence; Antiretroviral therapy; Community health workers; HIV; Male circumcision; Motivational interviewing; Randomized controlled trial; Uganda; mHealth.