A randomized clinical efficacy trial of a psychosocial intervention to strengthen self-acceptance and reduce HIV risk for MSM in India: study protocol

BMC Public Health. 2018 Jul 18;18(1):890. doi: 10.1186/s12889-018-5838-2.


Background: Men who have sex with men (MSM) in India are a key group at risk for HIV acquisition and transmission. They are also an extremely marginalized and stigmatized population, facing immense psychosocial stressors including, but not limited to, stigma, homophobia, discrimination, criminalization, low self-esteem, low self-acceptance, distress, and, as a result, high rates of mental health problems. Although these multi-level psychosocial problems may put MSM at high risk for HIV acquisition and transmission, currently HIV prevention interventions in India do not address them. This paper describes the design of a psychosocial intervention to reduce HIV risk for MSM in India.

Methods: Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, this study is a two-arm randomized clinical efficacy trial of a self-acceptance based psychosocial HIV prevention intervention, informed by the minority stress model and syndemic theory, that was developed with extensive community-based formative work and input from the Indian MSM community and key informants who are knowledgeable about the experiences faced by MSM in India. Participants are MSM in Chennai and Mumbai who endorsed recent sexual behaviors placing them at high risk for HIV/sexually transmitted infection (STI) acquisition and transmission. Enrolled participants are equally randomized to either 1) the experimental condition, which consists of four group and six individual counseling sessions and includes standard of care HIV/STI testing and counseling, or 2) the standard of care condition, which includes HIV/STI testing and counseling alone. The primary outcomes are changes in the frequency of condomless anal sex acts and STI incidence (syphilis seropositivity and urethral, rectal, and pharyngeal gonorrhea and chlamydia infection. Major study assessment visits occur at baseline, 4-, 8-, and 12-months.

Discussion: HIV prevention interventions that address the psychosocial stressors faced by MSM in India are needed; this study will examine the efficacy of such an intervention. If the intervention is successful, it may be able to reduce the national HIV/AIDS burden in India while empowering a marginalized and highly stigmatized group.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02556294 , registered 22 September 2015.

Keywords: HIV prevention; India; MSM; Psychosocial intervention; Randomized controlled trial; STI prevention; Self-acceptance.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial Protocol
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data
  • Counseling / methods
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Homosexuality, Male / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • India
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Research Design
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / epidemiology
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control
  • Standard of Care
  • Unsafe Sex / prevention & control*
  • Unsafe Sex / statistics & numerical data

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02556294