Summary of Talk:
"Globally, nearly 10 million people infected with HIV are receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) but many struggle to adhere to treatment regimens. In the United States, men who have sex with men (MSM) account for two-thirds of all new HIV infections and young MSM (YMSM) are the only risk group experiencing an increase in HIV incidence. Many YMSM who are diagnosed with HIV do not get prescribed ART, adhere to ART regimens or achieve viral suppression. Once diagnosed with HIV, YMSM must adjust to living with a highly stigmatized health condition that requires lifelong medical management. For YMSM who may already be ostracized from families and friends because of their sexual identity, receiving an HIV diagnosis can increase social isolation, depression and anxiety.
Novel theory-based interventions that optimize engagement in care, ART uptake and ART adherence for HIV-positive YMSM are needed. Improving ART adherence will result in better individual health outcomes and reduce the likelihood of onward transmission of HIV. Research studies and interventions that take advantage of technology-based platforms have great potential to encourage health promotion behaviors.
In response to the HIV treatment needs of YMSM, our research team developed Epic Allies, a mobile phone application (app) that utilizes game mechanics and social networking features to improve ART uptake and adherence among HIV-positive YMSM. Social networking technologies enhance support and reduce social isolation, while game mechanics engage users to motivate and sustain daily medication adherence.
Dr. LeGrand will discuss the theoretical framework that guided intervention app development, provide an overview of the app components, and describe how these components are designed to change HIV treatment behavior. Finally, the she will discuss how the intervention can be adapted for use with MSM and other populations in global settings to improve HIV medication adherence."
Dr. Sara LeGrand is an Assistant Research Professor at the Duke Global Health Institute and Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research (CHPIR) at Duke University. Dr. LeGrand has a doctoral degree in Health Services Research and has extensive experience conducting qualitative and quantitative research related to HIV prevention and care with findings published in numerous international peer-reviewed journals. She has conducted research in North Carolina and the US as well as Bolivia, Peru, Malawi and Cambodia. Dr. LeGrand currently serves as principal investigator, investigator and evaluator for numerous HIV care and prevention grants funded through the US National Institutes of Health and the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Dr. LeGrand is particularly interested in the design and evaluation of technology-based HIV prevention and care interventions for men who have sex with men.