In the U.S., as little as six percent of adolescents with HIV consistently take their antiretroviral medications, raising their risk of health problems caused by the disease and the potential to transmit HIV to their sex partners. School of Public Health Associate Professor Keith Horvath is working to improve that statistic by testing a new social networking app aimed at supporting the health of HIV-positive youth.
“Medication adherence for youth with HIV is challenging, particularly since education about the importance of taking medication every day most often happens at the clinic with little support once youth go home,” says Horvath. “This app will be available 24/7 and allow youth to connect with others who, like them, have HIV and who can provide support and encouragement for staying healthy.”
The app, called “Youth Thrive,” features peer-to-peer interaction (like Facebook), medication reminders, text message self-monitoring for mood and substance use, individually-tailored medication adherence information, and gamification elements (earning badges for using the program).
“Pairing peer support with other tools — such as medication self-monitoring and relevant information about HIV and medications — provides a suite of features that addresses both the stigma of living with HIV and practical skills for taking their medications regularly,” says Horvath.
Over the next four years, the trial will enroll more than 350 youth of all genders between the ages of 15 and 24 who live in New York City, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Tampa, Chicago, and Houston.
The project is part of the UNC/Emory Center for Innovative Technology (iTech), one of three centers supported by the new NIH Adolescent Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions.