AIDS and Behavior

, Volume 21, Issue 11, pp 3172–3181 | Cite as

A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial of an Integrated In-person and Mobile Phone Delivered Counseling and Text Messaging Intervention to Reduce HIV Transmission Risk among Male Sex Workers in Chennai, India

  • Matthew J. MimiagaEmail author
  • Beena Thomas
  • Katie Biello
  • Blake E. Johnson
  • Soumya Swaminathan
  • Pandiyaraja Navakodi
  • S. Balaguru
  • A. Dhanalakshmi
  • Elizabeth F. Closson
  • Sunil Menon
  • Conall O’Cleirigh
  • Kenneth H. Mayer
  • Steven A. Safren
Original Paper


Men who have sex with men (MSM) are at increased risk for HIV infection in India, particularly those who engage in transactional sex with other men (i.e., male sex workers; MSW). Despite the need, HIV prevention efforts for Indian MSW are lacking. As in other settings, MSW in India increasingly rely on the use of mobile phones for sex work solicitation. Integrating mobile phone technology into an HIV prevention intervention for Indian MSW may mitigate some of the challenges associated with face-to face approaches, such as implementation, lack of anonymity, and time consumption, while at the same time proving to be both feasible and useful. This is a pilot randomized controlled trial to examine participant acceptability, feasibility of study procedures, and preliminary efficacy for reducing sexual risk for HIV. MSW (N = 100) were equally randomized to: (1) a behavioral HIV prevention intervention integrating in-person and mobile phone delivered HIV risk reduction counseling, and daily, personalized text or voice messages as motivating “cognitive restructuring” cues for reducing condomless anal sex (CAS); or (2) a standard of care (SOC) comparison condition. Both groups received HIV counseling and testing at baseline and 6-months, and completed ACASI-based, behavioral and psychosocial assessments at baseline, 3, and 6 months. Mixed-effects regression procedures specifying a Poisson distribution and log link with a random intercept and slope for month of follow-up was estimated to assess the intervention effect on the primary outcomes: (1) CAS acts with male clients who paid them for sex, and (2) CAS acts with male non-paying sexual partners—both outcomes assessed over the past month. The intervention was both feasible (98% retention at 6-months) and acceptable (>96% of all intervention sessions attended); all intervention participants rated the intervention as “acceptable” or “very acceptable.” A reduction in the reported number of CAS acts with male clients who paid them for sex in the past month was seen in both study conditions. MSW in the intervention condition reported a faster rate of decline in the number of CAS acts with male clients in the past month from the baseline to both the 3-month (B = −1.20; 95% CI −1.68, −0.73; p < 0.0001) and 6-month (B = −2.44; 95% CI −3.35, −1.53; p < 0.00001) assessment visits compared to the SOC condition. Post-hoc contrasts indicated that, at 3 months, participants in the intervention condition reported 1.43 (SD = 0.29) CAS acts with male clients in the past month compared to 4.85 (SD = 0.87) in the control condition (p = 0.0003). Furthermore, at 6 months, the intervention condition participants reported 0.24 (SD = 0.09) CAS acts with male clients in the past month compared to 2.79 (SD = 0.79) in the control condition (p < 0.0001). Findings are encouraging and provide evidence of feasibility and acceptability, and demonstrate initial efficacy (for reducing sexual risk for HIV) of a behavioral HIV prevention intervention for Indian MSW that combines daily, personalized text or voice messages with mobile phone-delivered sexual risk reduction counseling and skills building. Future testing of the intervention in a fully powered randomized controlled efficacy trial is warranted.


HIV Male sex workers (MSW) India HIV prevention Behavioral intervention Men who have sex with men (MSM) 



The current project was supported by the Indo-U.S. Joint Working Group on Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV/AIDS through U.S. National Institute of Drug Abuse Grant #R21DA033720 (Matthew Mimiaga, PI) and Indian Council of Medical Research Grant #Indo-U.S/72/9/2010-ECDII (Beena Thomas, PI).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

MJM, BT, KB, BEJ, SS, PN, SB, AD, EFC, SM, CO, KHM, and SAS each declares that he/she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional review boards of The Fenway Institute, Boston, MA and the National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis, Chennai, India, and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew J. Mimiaga
    • 1
    • 2
    • 10
    Email author
  • Beena Thomas
    • 3
  • Katie Biello
    • 1
    • 2
  • Blake E. Johnson
    • 4
  • Soumya Swaminathan
    • 5
  • Pandiyaraja Navakodi
    • 3
  • S. Balaguru
    • 3
  • A. Dhanalakshmi
    • 3
  • Elizabeth F. Closson
    • 2
    • 6
  • Sunil Menon
    • 7
  • Conall O’Cleirigh
    • 2
    • 8
  • Kenneth H. Mayer
    • 2
    • 8
  • Steven A. Safren
    • 2
    • 9
  1. 1.Brown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  2. 2.The Fenway Institute, Fenway HealthBostonUSA
  3. 3.National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis (NIRT)/Indian Council of Medical ResearchChennaiIndia
  4. 4.University of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA
  5. 5.Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India/Indian Council of Medical ResearchNew DelhiIndia
  6. 6.London School of Hygiene and Tropical MedicineLondonUK
  7. 7.SahodaranChennaiIndia
  8. 8.Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  9. 9.University of MiamiCoral GablesUSA
  10. 10.Brown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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