Despite need for consistent adherence to medical care, youth living with HIV (YLWH) have suboptimal rates of retention in care and adherence to antiretroviral medication (ARV) treatment. There are few adherence studies with YLWH and the results are mixed, so there is a great need for the development of novel interventions. Results of adult HIV adherence studies indicate that participants are interested in using technology-based methods and are most receptive toward interventions that couple technological devices with motivational components. Pill taking monitoring devices have been found to be a sensitive measure of adherence to ARV medications, but do not lead to sustained improvements in adherence or intrinsic motivation when used alone. Building on this knowledge, this study will examine a multi-level technology that integrates a medication monitoring device (Vitality Cap) WITH an interactive smartphone based app/game that is attractive and engaging to YLWH. This multi-level approach will integrate theory driven content with novel, but intuitive, technology to improve HIV treatment adherence. In this study, each opening of the pill bottle will allow access to the app/game on the smartphone via data transferred wirelessly from the bottle cap (Vitality Cap) to the phone. This developmental project will adapt and refine a smartphone app/game to include content consistent with the Information-Motivation-Behavioral Skills (IMB) Model. Creation and adaptation will occur from in-depth interviews with YLWH on ART (n=25) and an open trial of the Intervention (n=20). While gaming, participants will experience absorbing action-oriented adventures that increase information about their health (e.g. knowledge about HIV treatment), improve motivation (e.g. action-figures experience health benefits of adherence), and build skills (e.g. utilize clinicians as partners). A small randomized controlled pilot study (24 weeks) among 60 YLWH will examine the preliminary efficacy of the IMB Gaming Adherence Intervention (integration of the Vitality Cap with the IMB informed app/game) compared to a comparison group who receive the Vitality Cap and smartphone but no IMB game, on adherence and biological measures.

Public Health Relevance

This study will develop and test a novel, technology based intervention to improve treatment adherence among youth living with HIV who are taking antiretroviral medication. In the intervention youth will gain access to an engaging and immersive app/game on their smartphone by opening their medication bottle. Data about the opening of the pill bottle will be transferred from the bottle cap to the participant's smartphone app/game wirelessly. While gaming, participants will gain information about their health, improve motivation for ARV and medical appointment adherence, and practice healthy behaviors. If the Intervention is found to be effective, it can be tested in a larger study and then disseminated to other youth on antiretroviral medications.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZHD1-DSR-W (55))
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Haverkos, Lynne
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Rhode Island Hospital
United States
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