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Mobile Text Message Intervention to Promote HIV/STI Service Use by At-Risk Youth

Funding Source

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), R34MH093162

Project Period

7/25/11 - 12/31/15

Principal Investigator

Sarah Lord, PhD

Other Project Staff

Alwyn Cohall, MD (Co-PI)

Project Summary

Young people of color bear a disproportionate burden of HIV/AIDS in the US. Though HIV testing is recommended for all young people 13 and older, many do not seek available services and face barriers to accessing healthcare. Young people of color from the poorest communities in metropolitan New York City have among the highest rates of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (STI) in the US. Rates of STI are even higher among HIV+ young people, increasing vulnerability to infection with other STI as well as transmission of HIV. Project STAY (Services to Assist Youth), a collaboration between the Harlem Health Promotion Center, Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and New York Presbyterian Hospital, offers an innovative outreach solution for connecting underserved young people with sexual health education and HIV/STI services via community-based prevention education workshops. Yet, there is currently no mechanism for ongoing contact with participants to promote screening and reinforce workshop material. An efficient way to maintain contact with participants to disseminate ongoing prevention information could improve linkages to care by overcoming the logistic and motivational barriers to service assess. Mobile and Internet technologies are ideal for contact continuity. We propose to conduct formative work to develop and evaluate feasibility and acceptance of an innovative intervention, STAYConnected, that integrates mobile Internet and Short Text Messaging (SMS) technologies to improve linkages to care and promote HIV risk reduction behaviors for Project STAY participants aged 18 to 24. We will conduct elicitation research with target end-users and clinic stakeholders to ensure that the intervention addresses the needs of the target audience and is compatible with clinic infrastructure. The intervention will then be piloted with 90 participants in a two-group design to examine feasibility of assessment and intervention implementation, outcome and process trends, and end-user acceptance of the intervention. Results of this formative study will inform refinement of the intervention and research design planning for a larger R01 evaluation.

Public Health Relevance

A successful Internet-text message intervention that improves links to HIV health services for underserved minority young people has the potential for high public health impact and can serve as a model for integrating community prevention outreach with direct care more broadly. This project addresses NIH priorities to support programs targeted to positively impact health care access, utilization and outcomes and improve the quality, coordination and delivery of care to individuals, particularly those in underserved communities. The project is also well aligned with the current strategic goals of the Office of National AIDS Policy.