Intervention to increase HIV testing among substance-using young men who have sex with men: Protocol for a randomized controlled trial

Rob Stephenson, Erin E. Bonar, Adam Carrico, Alexis Hunter, Daniel Connochie, Rebecca Himmelstein, Jose Bauermeister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Young men who have sex with men (YMSM) and transgender people in the Detroit Metro Area are the only risk group for whom the incidence of HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STI) has increased since 2000, with HIV incidence nearly doubling among youth. Substance use (including alcohol), which is relatively frequent among YMSM and transgender people, creates barriers to the optimal delivery of HIV prevention and care services. Standard HIV counseling, testing, and referral (CTR) is limited in providing strategies to identify and address substance use. Hence, in its current form, CTR may not be serving the prevention needs of substance-using YMSM and transgender people. Brief counseling interventions, grounded in principles of motivational interviewing, may offer a mechanism to meet the HIV prevention and care needs of substance-using YMSM and transgender people. Objective: This prospective, 4-arm, factorial randomized controlled trial aims to examine the efficacy of an motivational interviewing-based substance use brief intervention (SUBI) on participants' substance use and engagement in HIV prevention. Methods: The research implements a prospective randomized controlled trial (Project Swerve) of 600 YMSM and transgender people recruited both online and in person. Eligibility criteria include participants who (1) are between the ages of 15 to 29 years, (2) live in the Detroit Metro Area, (3) self-identify as a man or transgender man or woman, (4) have had sexual contact with a man in the 6 months before enrollment, (5) self-report binge drinking or any substance use in the 3 months before enrollment, and (6) self-report an unknown or negative HIV status upon enrollment. Participants are randomized to receive, 3-months apart starting at baseline, 2 individual sessions. Sessions are CTR-only, SUBI-only, CTR followed by SUBI, or SUBI followed by CTR. Results: Project Swerve was launched in April 2017 and enrollment is ongoing. Conclusions: Incorporating a SUBI that utilizes the principles of motivational interviewing into HIV CTR provides an opportunity to tailor counseling services for YMSM and transgender people to address additional client barriers to HIV and STI testing. Trial Registration: NCT02945436; (Archived by WebCite at

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere114
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018


  • Drug abuse
  • HIV
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Substance use disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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