BACKGROUND: Rates of participation in HIV care, medication uptake, and viral suppression are improving among persons living with HIV (PLWH) in the United States. Yet, disparities among African American/Black and Latino PLWH are persistent, signaling the need for new conceptual approaches. To address gaps in services and research (e.g., insufficient attention to structural/systemic factors, inadequate harm reduction services and autonomy support) and improve behavioral interventions, we integrated critical race theory, harm reduction, and self-determination theory into a new conceptual model, then used the model to develop a set of six intervention components which were tested in a larger study. The present qualitative study explores participants’ perspectives on the study’s acceptability, feasibility, and impact, and the conceptual model’s contribution to these experiences.
METHODS: Participants in the larger study were African American/Black and Latino PLWH poorly engaged in HIV care and with non-suppressed HIV viral load in New York City (N = 512). We randomly selected N = 46 for in-depth semi-structured interviews on their experiences with and perspectives on the study. Interviews were audio-recorded and professionally transcribed verbatim, and data were analyzed using directed qualitative content analysis.
RESULTS: On average, participants were 49 years old (SD = 9) and had lived with HIV for 19 years (SD = 7). Most were male (78%) and African American/Black (76%). All had taken HIV medication previously. Challenging life contexts were the norm, including poverty, poor quality/unstable housing, trauma histories exacerbated by current trauma, health comorbidities, and substance use. Participants found the study highly acceptable. We organized results into four themes focused on participants’ experiences of: 1) being understood as a whole person and in their structural/systemic context; 2) trustworthiness and trust; 3) opportunities for self-reflection; and 4) support of personal autonomy. The salience of nonjudgment was prominent in each theme. Themes reflected grounding in the conceptual model. Participants reported these characteristics were lacking in HIV care settings.
CONCLUSIONS: The new conceptual model emphasizes the salience of systemic/structural and social factors that drive health behavior and the resultant interventions foster trust, self-reflection, engagement, and behavior change. The model has potential to enhance intervention acceptability, feasibility, and effectiveness with African American/Black and Latino PLWH.
Advancing behavioral interventions for African American/Black and Latino persons living with HIV using a new conceptual model that integrates critical race theory, harm reduction, and self-determination theory: A qualitative exploratory study
International Journal of Equity in Health, 21 (1), 97. doi: 10.1186/s12939-022-01699-0. PMCID: PMC9286957.