Daily antiretroviral therapy (ART) suppresses viral replication, rendering HIV undetectable through viral load (VL) testing. People living with HIV (PLWH) who have an undetectable VL cannot transmit HIV to sexual partners or through giving birth, a message commonly referred to as U = U (undetectable equals untransmittable). To increase knowledge and understanding of U = U among men, who have poorer HIV testing and treatment outcomes than women, we engaged men from high HIV burden communities in Cape Town in two interactive human-centered design cocreation workshops to develop local U = U messaging for men. Two trained workshop facilitators, explained the U = U message to 39 adult men (in two separate workshops), and asked them how to effectively communicate U = U to other men in the local language (isiXhosa). Participant-designed messages sought to inform men about U = U to help assuage fears of testing HIV positive (by removing the stigma of living with HIV and being a vector of disease), and to explain that ART enables PLWH to live normal healthy lives, making HIV “untransmittable” to sex partners. Participants’ messages emphasized that when virally suppressed, “I cannot spread HIV to the other person” and “(the pill) keeps on killing the virus so I can live a normal life for the rest of my life.” Men cocreated simple local U = U messages to address fears of testing HIV positive and emphasizing ART’s positive effects. Cocreated tailored messaging may reduce stigma associated with living with HIV and improve the uptake of HIV testing and treatment among South African men. This study was registered at clinicaltrials.gov under NCT04364165.
Desmond Tutu Health Foundation