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Development of Mobile Health Interventions to Improve Adherence to Medication and Reduce Sexual Risk Behavior among HIV+ Youth

Statement of Problem

Adolescents and young adults account for nearly 40 percent of new HIV infections each year, with the most alarming rates occurring among certain groups of youth, such as young men who have sex with men and people of color. Antiretroviral medication (ART) can offer the prospect of a normal lifespan despite chronic disease caused by HIV, but youth are significantly less likely than their adult counterparts to achieve viral suppression, or very low levels of HIV in the body. An individual can only achieve and maintain viral suppression if they take ART medication exactly as prescribed with no missed doses. Optimal medication adherence can be particularly difficult for youth who experience unique physical, cognitive, social and emotional changes throughout development. In fact, fewer than half of HIV+ youth who are prescribed ART achieve viral suppression, compared to more than 75 percent of HIV+ adults.

Furthermore, the consequences of sub-optimal medication adherence can be quite severe, including the development of resistance and lack of viral suppression, rendering infected individuals more likely to transmit the virus to someone else through unprotected sex.

Despite these consequences, we have few interventions that target ART adherence and sexual risk reduction for HIV+ youth. As regular consumers of mobile technology, leveraging it represents a tremendous opportunity to provide support for improved health outcomes to HIV+ youth as they go about their daily lives and, ultimately, help them transition into healthy, productive adults.


Next Steps

If successful, this intervention may have broad implications for improving health outcomes for youth living with HIV and those at high-risk for HIV infection, as well as those living with other chronic diseases. This type of intervention, which is potentially high-impact and relatively low-cost, allows patients to receive support in real-time as they go about their daily lives and provides an opportunity to increase the value of care using mHealth technology.

This project page was last updated in July 2019.

Suggested Citation

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PolicyLab. Development of Mobile Health Interventions to Improve Adherence to Medication and Reduce Sexual Risk Behavior among HIV+ Youth [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: plug in date accessed here].