Effectiveness & Implementation of a Behavioral Intervention for Adherence and Substance Use in HIV Care in South Africa

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University of Maryland




Human Immunodeficiency Virus
Drug Use
Alcohol-Related Disorders


Behavioral: Project Khanya

Study type


Funder types



K23DA041901 (U.S. NIH Grant/Contract)

Details and patient eligibility


The purpose of this study is to test the effectiveness and implementation of a brief, integrated behavioral intervention for HIV medication adherence and substance use in the HIV care setting in South Africa. The intervention is specifically designed to be implemented by non-specialist counselors using a task sharing model in local HIV clinics. The behavioral intervention will be compared to usual care, enhanced with referral to a local outpatient substance use treatment program (Enhanced Standard of Care - ESOC) on study endpoints (as described in study endpoint section below).

Full description

The HIV epidemic in South Africa (SA) is among the highest in the world. SA has a large antiretroviral therapy (ART) program, but some individuals exhibit poor ART adherence, which increases the likelihood of developing drug resistance and failing the only available first and second line ART regimens in SA. ART nonadherence contributes to greater morbidity, mortality, and higher likelihood of sexual HIV transmission when virus is detectable. At the same time, alcohol and other drug use is prevalent among HIV-infected individuals in SA and associated with worse ART adherence, lower rates of viral suppression, and HIV transmission risk behavior. Yet, despite the impact of untreated substance use on poor HIV treatment outcomes and continued HIV transmission, there is little if any integration of substance use and HIV care services in SA, which creates a fragmented and incomplete system of care. This study had three phases, first being formative, qualitative work which led to a systematic treatment adaptation phase. This third phase, the clinical trial, is based on this formative work and other empirical support using behavioral interventions to improve ART adherence and reduce substance use in resource-limited settings, including SA. This study is a Type 1 hybrid effectiveness-implementation trial of a lay counselor-delivered behavioral intervention for adherence and substance use integrated into the HIV primary care setting in SA. To ensure that those who need this intervention most will receive it, participants will be patients with HIV who are struggling with adherence (as defined in the investigator's inclusion criteria) and who have an elevated substance use risk.


66 patients




18 to 65 years old


No Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  • HIV positive and on ART

  • 18-65 years of age

  • Elevated substance use risk (ASSIST score greater than or equal to 4 for drugs or greater than or equal to 11 for alcohol)

  • Have at least one of the following:

    1. Not attained viral suppression from first line ART (VL>400 copies/mL)
    2. On second-line ART treatment
    3. Reinitiated first-line treatment within the past three months
    4. Had a pharmacy non-refill at least once in the past 3 months

Exclusion criteria

  • Inability to provide informed consent or complete procedures in English or isiXhosa
  • Severe risk/likely dependence for opiates (ASSIST score >26) because opiate substitution therapy may not be available
  • Severe alcohol dependence symptoms that may warrant medical management of potential withdrawal symptoms
  • Active, untreated, major mental illness (with untreated psychosis or mania) that would interfere with the paraprofessional adapted intervention

Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Parallel Assignment


None (Open label)

66 participants in 2 patient groups

Project Khanya
Experimental group
Those assigned to Project Khanya (the behavioral intervention for substance use and adherence condition) will have approximately 6 sessions (including Life-Steps, behavioral activation, and relapse prevention) delivered by a peer interventionist plus standard of care, which is typically referral to a local outpatient substance use treatment clinic. They will also receive a Wisepill, a wireless, real-time adherence monitoring device.
Behavioral: Project Khanya
No Intervention group
Those assigned to the ESOC (enhanced standard of care) condition will receive the standard of care, which is referral to a local substance use treatment clinic. The substance use clinics in the location that this study occurs follow the Matrix, and evidence-based 16-week outpatient program to treat substance use. We will enhance patients' normal referral to Matrix for ESOC participants by promoting facilitating and following up on the referral. Additionally, those in the control group will also receive a Wisepill, a wireless adherence monitoring device.

Trial documents

Trial contacts and locations



Data sourced from clinicaltrials.gov

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