Researchers Test Mobile App's Ability to Ensure Adherence

A recent pilot study examined the feasibility of using mobile devices to collect health-related data among people living with human immunodeficiency virus and found patients were willing to report antiretroviral therapy adherence and substance abuse.

A recent pilot study examined the feasibility of using mobile devices to collect health-related data among people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and found patients were willing to report antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence and substance abuse. The study, conducted by Sarahmona Przybyla, PhD, MPH, of State University of New York at Buffalo, and colleagues, is currently in press in the journal AIDS Research and Treatment.

The researchers assert that ART has “yielded significant declines in HIV-related morbidity and mortality,” and that lack of adherence to ART is one of the most common contributors to viral rebound. They say that “identifying modifiable barriers to ART adherence is a public health priority.” A tool such as a mobile application could help patients adhere to ART and could help improve outcomes.

HIV-positive individuals are at a higher risk for substance abuse, particularly alcohol abuse and marijuana use. “Notably, substance use is one of the most reliable predictors of poor adherence to ART,” say the researchers. The researchers recruited and enrolled 26 participants from 2 HIV clinics in western New York. The participation criteria included “at least two days of alcohol use and at least one day of ART non-adherence” in the week before the study said the researchers.

Each participant used an app called Daily Reports of Using Medications (DRUM) to send daily reports about specific behaviors during the previous 24-hour period. The participants completed the reports for 14 days. There was a completion rate of 95.3%, and participants reported alcohol consumption 179 days and marijuana use was reported 123 days. The researchers report, “Overall ART adherence was 77.5%” during the course of the study.

“Study results should be interpreted with caution given the existence of limitations,” say the researchers. Because the study only drew from two clinics, the findings cannot be generalized. Additionally, the follow up period was “relatively short” according the study authors. They conclude, “Results demonstrated that HIV-infected adults have the ability to and interest in successfully completing health-related electronic reports, reporting positive experiences.”