EE Tolley, J Taylor, A Pack, E Greene, J Stanton, V Shelus, R Dunner, T Hodge, B Branson, WM El-Sadr, T Gamble. The Role of Financial Incentives Along the Antiretroviral Therapy Adherence Continuum: A Qualitative Sub-study of the HPTN 065 (TLC-Plus) Study. AIDS Behav. 2018, 22: 245-257. PMC5758676
The stages of change (SOC) theory suggests individuals adapt incrementally to behaviors like adherence, requiring different strategies over the behavior change continuum. Offering financial incentives (FIs) is one strategy to motivate adherence. This qualitative sub-study examined adherence barriers and the role of FIs to increase viral suppression (VS) among HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) 065 study participants categorized into SOC-related adherence stages based on changes from baseline to follow-up viral load tests. Of 73 participants, most were in Maintenance stage (n = 31), defined as having achieved VS throughout HPTN 065, or in Action stage (n = 29), defined as moving from virally unsuppressed to suppressed in 50% or more of tests. Only 13 were Low Adherers, having achieved VS in fewer than 50% of tests. The latter group faced substantial social and structural adherence barriers. Participants in the Action stage made positive changes to adherence routines to achieve VS. Those in Maintenance were less incentivized by FIs, as they were already committed. Results from this sub-study suggest FI effectiveness may vary across the SOC continuum, with greatest impact for those initiating antiretroviral or without explicit adherence routines. FIs may be insufficient to overcome strong social or structural barriers, and unnecessary for those intrinsically committed to remaining adherent.