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Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center Investigators Receive $1.5 Million Grant to Explore HIV Treatment Compliance in Young Adults

3/20/2013

Researchers will study mobile app to engage young adults in managing their health  

 
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 physicians.

“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 behavior.