Researchers will study mobile app to engage young adults in managing
Laura Whiteley, MD, psychiatrist, explains a research study that tests the effectiveness of using a smart phone game to increase adherance to antiretroviral medication and treatment.
Larry Brown, MD, and Laura Whiteley, MD, adolescent behavioral
researchers from the Bradley
Hasbro Children’s Research Center,
have been awarded a $1.5 million grant to improve antiretroviral
treatment (ART) adherence in HIV infected youth and young adults.
The study, funded by The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of
Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), will explore the use of a
mobile phone app/game to better inform youth about their health needs
and improve their adherence to treatment.
“Optimal outcomes in the treatment of people living with HIV require
consistent attendance to medical appointments and high compliance to
antiretroviral treatment,” said Whiteley. “Treatment adherence is
associated with enhanced CD4+ cell count, reductions in HIV viral load,
decreased transmission and an overall decrease in risk of death.
Teaching young adults with HIV how to better manage their health is
crucial to their long-term wellbeing.”
In the study, young adults between the ages of 14 to 24 who are HIV
positive will have access to an action-adventure smartphone based
app/game called “Battle Viro.” Tasks within the game are related to
common HIV treatment protocols, such as players collecting pills to keep
immune level scores high.
While gaming, participants will experience action-oriented adventures
with a goal of increasing knowledge about their health (treatment,
transmission, adherence), improving players’ motivation to manage their
personal health, and building skills, such as interacting with
“Despite the necessity of treatment adherence for optimal health
outcomes, youth living with HIV often do not stay in care and do not
consistently take their HIV medications,” said Brown. “There is a great
need to find effective interventions to improve treatment adherence for
adolescents and young adults infected with HIV. Without adherence to
medical care, we are not likely to halt the progression to AIDS.”
Pill bottle opening data from each participant’s medication bottle cap
will be captured using a tracking technology, to measure whether
participants are taking their medication regularly. The research team
hopes to find more consistent medication adherence among the group that
plays the smartphone game.
Brown and Whiteley’s principal affiliations are the Bradley Hasbro
Children’s Research Center, a division of the Lifespan health system in
Rhode Island. They also have academic appointments at The Warren Alpert
Medical School of Brown University, department of psychiatry and human