Positively Connected for Health (PC4H):  Use of eHealth/mHealth tools to Improve Health of HIV+ Youth

Statement of Problem

Each year, there are approximately 50,000 new HIV infections. Young people ages 13-29 make up almost half of these new infections despite only accounting for one-third of the total population. Additionally, compared with adults, youth are two-to-four times less likely to achieve an undetectable viral load (indicating optimal control of HIV infection). Viral suppression, the goal of HIV treatment, can only be achieved and maintained if antiretroviral therapy or ART (HIV medication) is taken every day at the same time with very little room for missing doses. If youth are able to engage in regular medical care and adhere to their medication, it will improve their personal health and well-being and help prevent transmission to others. 

Positively Connected for Health (PC4H) is a Philadelphia-based innovative project that aims to improve health outcomes for youth living with HIV who do not have a suppressed viral load by using the following three distinct eHealth/mHealth interventions:

  1. Iknowushould2, a CHOP social media campaign that encourages youth in Philadelphia to get HIV and STI testing
  2. APPlify Youth Health, a Philadelphia FIGHT workshop that teaches young people how to utilize digital health literacy tools
  3. A mobile health (mHealth) application, a CHOP and Drexel University app that works to improve medication adherence and engagement in care for adolescents and young adults living with HIV

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) funds this project and other similar programs across ten U.S. cities to determine how social media/technology interventions can help to improve the health of youth living with HIV.

PC4H will enroll youth ages 14-29 who are not virally suppressed and who are receiving care or services at CHOP and Philadelphia FIGHT. The project aims to:

  1. Use the iknowushould2 campaign to identify HIV+ youth who are unaware of their status.
  2. Determine acceptability and feasibility of the APPlify Your Health workshop with the medication adherence application by measuring eHealth literacy, workshop satisfaction and the medication adherence app satisfaction through questionnaires.
  3. Determine efficacy of the medication adherence and engagement in care application for youth living with HIV by measuring app self-reported data on medication adherence and clinical outcomes (viral load, CD4 count) captured through laboratory testing at medical visits over an 18-month period. 

The study teams will work with the funder’s national evaluators, UCLA’s Evaluation and Technical Assistance Center (ETAC), to evaluate the various sites’ innovative social media methods designed to identify, link and retain youth and young adults living with HIV who are underserved, underinsured and hard to reach. The evaluation of the effectiveness of this mHealth/eHealth HIV-focused intervention will provide a foundation for future culturally competent, youth-centered models designed to improve digital health literacy, medication adherence and retention in care for marginalized youth either living with or at risk for HIV infection.