Integrated Next Step Counseling (iNSC) for Sexual Health and PrEP Use Among Young Men Who Have Sex with Men: Implementation and Observations from ATN110/113

AIDS Behav. 2019 Jul;23(7):1812-1823. doi: 10.1007/s10461-018-2291-2.


Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for the prevention of HIV infection among young men who have sex with men is a critical part of the HIV prevention landscape in the US. Given the unique challenges and resources of young MSM negotiating safer sex practices, including PrEP, counseling and supportive discussions to optimize both PrEP use and sexual health protection more generally may facilitate reaching HIV prevention goals. Within the context of a large, open-label PrEP study (ATN110/113), support for sexual health promotion and PrEP use was provided through use of integrated Next Step Counseling (iNSC) as part of study visits. We detail iNSC and, using session documentation collected throughout this study, we characterize iNSC implementation and the content generated from these discussions. We detail features of iNSC, training of counselors and the implementation of iNSC in a multi-site PrEP study with young MSM in the US. Case report forms completed by iNSC counselors at study visits at weeks 4, 8, 12, 24, 36, and 48 were evaluated. Implementation of each intervention step for each discussion is summarized at and across timepoints, as well as features of specific steps (e.g., kinds of facilitators and barriers). Implementation differences by group (e.g., race/ethnicity, age) were examined. iNSC case report forms from 1000 sessions involving 178 unique participants ages 15-22 from sessions conducted between 2013 and 2015 were reviewed. High fidelity to iNSC steps in terms of inclusion in sessions was reported; 98-100% of sessions included critical steps for sexual health protection discussions and 96-98% for PrEP use discussions. The vast majority of sessions appeared to flow in line with iNSC's emphasis on exploration and open discussion prior to considering specific needs and related strategies. Nearly three-quarters of sessions noted 'commitment to staying negative' as a motivator towards sexual health protection (more commonly reported by those identifying as White), while 'assuming partner is negative' was the most common challenge (less common for the older cohort), and 'having access' to a sexual health protection tool or strategy (besides PrEP) was the most common "need" (more common for those identifying as White or Latino). Carrying dose(s) to have them on-hand when needed was the most common PrEP adherence facilitator, drug and alcohol use was the most common challenge noted, and access to a dose when needed was the most common "need" (more common for participants self-identified as White). iNSC was implemented consistently throughout ATN110/113, and patient-centered discussions about sexual health protection and PrEP-use appeared feasible to incorporate into clinical care visits.

Keywords: Adherence counseling; Adolescents; MSM; PrEP; Youth.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / prevention & control*
  • Adolescent
  • African Americans
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Homosexuality, Male / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis*
  • Safe Sex / psychology*
  • Sex Counseling / methods*
  • Sexual Health
  • Sexual Partners
  • Young Adult