The AIDS Clinical Trials Group A5345 study (NCT03001128) included an intensively monitored antiretroviral pause (IMAP), during which participants living with HIV temporarily stopped antiretroviral treatment (ART) in an effort to identify biomarkers that could predict HIV rebound. We evaluated the potential impact of the IMAP on A5345 study participants in the United States by questioning them immediately after the IMAP and at the end of the study. We administered longitudinal sociobehavioral questionnaires to participants following the IMAP when they resumed ART and at the end of the study. We summarized descriptive data from the post-IMAP and end-of-study questionnaires. Open-ended responses were analyzed using conventional content analysis. Reactions to pausing ART involved a mixture of curiosity and satisfaction from contributing to science. All participants indicated adherence with the ART interruption. About half (9/17) of post-IMAP questionnaire respondents reported having sexual partner(s) during the IMAP, and of those, nearly all (8/9) did not find it difficult to use measures to prevent HIV transmission to partners. The majority believed that they benefited from the study, yet some had elevated anxiety following the IMAP and at the end of the study. Most (24/29) respondents who completed the end-of-study questionnaire would recommend the study to other people living with HIV. Our findings underscore the relevance of the psychosocial aspects of participating in studies that involve interruptions of ART. Understanding how participants experience this research is invaluable for informing the design of future research aimed at sustained ART-free virologic suppression.
Keywords: analytical treatment interruption; behavioral sciences; intensively monitored antiretroviral pause; persons living with HIV; social sciences.