PositiveLinks: A Mobile Health Intervention for Retention in HIV Care and Clinical Outcomes with 12-Month Follow-Up

June 22, 2018 by School of Medicine Webmaster

Mobile health interventions may help People Living with HIV (PLWH) improve engagement in care. We designed and piloted PositiveLinks, a clinic-affiliated mobile intervention for PLWH, and assessed longitudinal impact on retention in care and viral suppression. The program was based at an academic Ryan White Clinic serving a nonurban population in Central Virginia. The PL intervention included a smartphone app that connected participants to clinic staff and provided educational resources, daily queries of stress, mood and medication adherence, weekly quizzes, appointment reminders, and a virtual support group. Outcomes were analyzed using McNemar’s tests for HRSA-1, visit constancy, and viral suppression and nonparametric Wilcoxon signed-rank tests for CD4 counts and viral loads. Of 77 participants, 63% were male, 49% black non-Hispanic, and 72% below the federal poverty level. Participants’ achievement of a retention in care benchmark (HRSA-1) increased from 51% at baseline to 88% at 6 months (p < 0.0001) and 81% at 12 months (p = 0.0003). Visit constancy improved from baseline to 6 months (p = 0.016) and 12 months (p = 0.0004). Participants’ mean CD4 counts increased from baseline to 6 months (p = 0.0007) and 12 months (p = 0.0005). The percentage of participants with suppressed viral loads increased from 47% at baseline to 87% at 6 months (p < 0.0001) and 79% at 12 months (p = 0.0007). This study is one of the first to demonstrate that a mobile health intervention can have a positive impact on retention in care and clinical outcomes for vulnerable PLWH. Next steps include integration with clinical practice and dissemination.