Adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV) have had worse outcomes compared to adults. They face enormous difficulty in accessing HIV care services. We hypothesize that conditional economic incentives (CEI) and motivational interviewing could increase retention in care, medication adherence and ultimately viral load suppression. Therefore, we evaluated the one-year impact of conditional economic incentives and motivational interviewing on the health outcomes of ALHIV in Anambra State, Nigeria.
Using a cluster-randomised design, we examined the one-year (from December 1, 2018, to November 30, 2019), individual-level impact of an Incentive Scheme comprising conditional economic incentives and motivational interviewing on achieving undetectable viral load (primary outcome), CD4+ count, adherence to antiretroviral therapy and retention in care (secondary outcomes) by ALHIV in Anambra State, Nigeria. Twelve HIV treatment hospitals were stratified according to the type of clinic (secondary or tertiary) and randomly assigned to the intervention arm or control arm to receive the Incentive Scheme or routine care, respectively. ALHIV aged 10–19 years, initiated into HIV care for a minimum of 6 months, and who adhered poorly to medications (<100% adherence rate) were eligible for the study. Participants in the intervention arm received motivational interviewing at the study baseline and every visit. They also received US$5.6 when HIV viral load (VL) was <20 copies/mL at month 3, US$2.8 if the VL remained suppressed at months 6 and 9, and US$5.6 if the VL remained <20 copies/mL at month 12.
Of the 246 trial participants, 119 were in the intervention while 127 were in the control arm. There was no difference in the baseline characteristics of the participants between the intervention and control arm except for the number of participants with undetectable viral load and the number of participants with ≥95% adherence. Although participants in the intervention arm had a 10.1% increase while those in the control arm had a 1.6% decrease in proportion with undetectable viral load (≤20 copies/ml) after 12 months, the change in the primary outcome was not statistically significant. Similarly, the differences in the secondary outcomes were not statistically significant.
The Incentive Scheme did not improve the virologic outcome of ALHIV after 12 months. Differences in the secondary outcomes after 12 months were also not significantly different from the baseline.
We registered the trial retrospectively with The Pan African Clinical Trials Registry: https://pactr.samrc.ac.za/(PACTR201806003040425) on 2/2/2018.