A Novel Computer-Based Virtual Counselor-Delivered Alcohol Reduction Intervention : Acceptability, Adaptability and Feasibility among Adults with HIV or TB in Indian Clinical Settings

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JMIR Formative Research

Unhealthy alcohol use is associated with increased morbidity and mortality among persons with HIV and tuberculosis (TB). Computer-based interventions (CBIs) can reduce unhealthy alcohol use, are scalable, and may improve outcomes among patients with HIV or TB.

We assessed the acceptability, adaptability, and feasibility of a novel CBI for alcohol reduction in HIV and TB clinical settings in Pune, India.

We conducted 10 in-depth interviews with persons with alcohol use disorder (AUD): TB (6/10), HIV (2/10), or HIV-TB co-infected (1/10) selected using convenience sampling method, no HIV or TB disease (1/10), 1 focus group with members of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA; n=12), and 2 focus groups with health care providers (HCPs) from a tertiary care hospital (n=22). All participants reviewed and provided feedback on a CBI for AUD delivered by a 3D virtual counselor. Qualitative data were analyzed using structured framework analysis.

The majority (9/10) of in-depth interview respondents were male, with median age 42 (IQR 38-45) years. AA focus group participants were all male (12/12), and HCP focus group participants were predominantly female (n=15). Feedback was organized into 3 domains: (1) virtual counselor acceptability, (2) intervention adaptability, and (3) feasibility of the CBI intervention in clinic settings. Overall, in-depth interview participants found the virtual counselor to be acceptable and felt comfortable honestly answering alcohol-related questions. All focus group participants preferred a human virtual counselor to an animal virtual counselor so as to potentially increase CBI engagement. Additionally, interaction with a live human counselor would further enhance the program’s effectiveness by providing more flexible interaction. HCP focus group participants noted the importance of adding information on the effects of alcohol on HIV and TB outcomes because patients were not viewed as appreciating these linkages. For local adaptation, more information on types of alcoholic drinks, additional drinking triggers, motivators, and activities to substitute for drinking alcohol were suggested by all focus group participants. Intervention duration (about 20 minutes) and pace were deemed appropriate. HCPs reported that the CBI provides systematic, standardized counseling. All focus group and in-depth interview participants reported that the CBI could be implemented in Indian clinical settings with assistance from HIV or TB program staff.

With cultural tailoring to patients with HIV and TB in Indian clinical care settings, a virtual counselor–delivered alcohol intervention is acceptable and appears feasible to implement, particularly if coupled with person-delivered counseling.

JMIR Form Res 2022;6(5):e35835

Suryavanshi N, Dhumal G, Cox SR, Sangle S, DeLuca A, Santre M, Gupta A, Chander G, Hutton H. Acceptability, Adaptability, and Feasibility of a Novel Computer-Based Virtual Counselor-Delivered Alcohol Intervention: Focus Group and In-depth Interview Study Among Adults With HIV or Tuberculosis in Indian Clinical Settings. JMIR Form Res. 2022 May 27;6(5):e35835. doi: 10.2196/35835. PMID: 35622406; PMCID: PMC9187965.