Yale University

Multi-State Study of Factors Affecting the Implementation and Utilization of Partner Services for HIV-Positive MSM (Project PS)

Funder: National Institute of Mental Health
Project period: 05/10/2018 - 02/29/2020
Grant Type: Research

Abstract Text:

Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV in the United States (U.S.). An important public health strategy for addressing the lack of serostatus awareness and the late diagnosis by MSM is the provision of partner services (PS). Although PS has traditionally been a core part of prevention and treatment strategies for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and when asked, most MSM are receptive to the idea, PS are infrequently used and a very low percentage of MSM are even aware of what PS entail. Given the potential for PS to increase identification of people with undetected HIV and the value for reducing the epidemic of treating those persons, better understanding is needed of the barriers to their effective implementation and the approaches most likely to increase PS utilization and success with MSM. A variety of strategies have been developed and tried. In many locations, a combination of traditional partner services (TPS), based on phone, mail/email, and in-person contact, and next-generation partner services (NGPS), using web-based and app-based social media or other internet contact methods and text messaging, are being implemented. Although research has assessed the effectiveness of a limited number of approaches, there has not been a systematic study of the variations implemented by disease intervention specialists (DIS) in different states nor how those approaches are perceived and experienced by MSM. A cross-state study would allow a comparative examination of PS implementation to document some common strategies for TPS and NGPS and the potential for these methods to overcome the barriers to PS utilization and implementation with MSM. The aims of this pilot study are to: (1) document the main variations in the way traditional partner services (TPS) and next-generation partner services (NGPS) are being implemented in Connecticut (CT), Rhode Island (RI), and Massachusetts (MA); and (2) explore the factors affecting the effectiveness of different approaches as well as barriers or facilitators to contacting MSM and their partners, from the perspective of HIV-positive MSM and DIS who implement TPS and NGPS with MSM. This exploratory pilot study will use qualitative methods to examine questions related to implementation, utilization, and effectiveness of PS for MSM. Specific data collection methods include a combination of focus groups and individual interviews with 75 MSM equally divided between CT, RI, and MA. Additionally, 2 DIS from each state Department of Health and the state managers of DIS programs will be interviewed regarding TPS and NGPS protocols and their implementation with MSM. Findings from this pilot study will be used to inform PS implementation improvements and to design a rigorous comparative study of the most promising approaches to increase PS reach and effectiveness with MSM.