The 2.3 million persons living with HIV (PLH) in India are being offered access to anti-retroviral therapies (ARV) by the government. ARVs offer the possibility of improving the individual's health and to reduce transmission by decreasing viral load. Yet, non-adherence remains high, typically around 50% (WHO, 2008). Mobile phones have been used in the US and globally to increase ARV adherence among PLH. As a low cost, easily diffused intervention strategy in a country such as India in which the mobile phone penetration rate is expected to reach 74% by 2013 and 101% by 2014 (Informa World, 2010), designing a mobile phone intervention to increase ARV adherence is a potentially highly efficacious intervention. In this proposal, we aim to adapt an existing mobile phone system for ARV adherence for PLH in India. However, because HIV is a chronic infectious disease, PLH are also challenged with maintaining mental health and reducing transmission risks (Swendeman et al., 2009a). Furthermore, reviews and meta-analyses have concluded that ARV adherence interventions are more effective when a comprehensive approach is adopted (Malta, 2008;Rueda, 2006;Simoni, 2006). In particular, mental health symptoms and transmission acts that co-occur with and undermine ARV adherence (Kalichman, 2008, Malta, 2008) are likely to be behaviors that may also be influenced by mobile phone delivered intervention. Thus, this R21 aims to adapt and develop two versions of a mobile phone program to enhance medical adherence: 1) one aimed solely at increasing medication and appointment adherence;and 2) one aimed at increasing adherence, plus reducing mental health symptoms and transmission acts. Three world-renowned HIV prevention and technology organizations will collaborate: 1) UCLA CHIPTS, with expertise in behavioral intervention development, adaptation, and randomized trials for PLH and other high risk populations;2) Durbar, with expertise in multi-level prevention and support services for high risk populations in India;and 3) Dimagi Inc., a technology company with expertise in mobile phone solutions for global health challenges. Dimagi has developed "ARemind" to assess and remind ARV and appointment adherence with feedback from PLH and providers in the U.S. and tested in a pilot study and subsequent SBIR funded study. The software assesses and reminds PLH through text messaging (i.e. Simple Messaging Service [SMS]) or Interactive Voice Response (IVR) methods. This program can also be leveraged to address the co-morbid challenges of preventing transmission and improving mental health and quality of life for PLH. In this study, ARemind will be adapted and developed for PLH in Kolkata, India to address the co-morbid challenges of ARV adherence, transmission risk reduction, and poor mental health faced by PLH.
HIV/AIDS is a significant and growing problem. Treatment non-adherence co-occurs with and is reinforced by substance use, sexual transmission risks, and poor mental health, thus requiring comprehensive interventions. Mobile phone delivered intervention will enhance the reach, intensity, dose, and efficiency of support for PLH.