Virginia: Smart Phones Become Weapon Against HIV

The University of Virginia (UVA) School of Medicine has won $525,000 from the AIDS United Foundation to develop its project plan to use smart phones to improve care of individuals recently diagnosed with HIV in rural Virginia. The project's smart phone application (app) will provide personalized, interactive reminders and offer access to a virtual community. It will also monitor treatment adherence and potential barriers to care so that the provider can respond quickly in nearly real time.

A one-year review indicated that individuals newly diagnosed with HIV infection missed an average of 1.7 scheduled appointments before reaching the UVA Ryan White Clinic, the largest HIV care provider in western Virginia. That delay can cause their health to worsen, increase the amount of virus in their blood, and add to the chances of spreading the disease to others. The new initiative will focus on problems such as depression, stigma, and poverty that often prevent or delay care for rural persons with HIV infection.

According to Rebecca Dillingham, MD, MPH, of the UVA Ryan White Clinic, the Positive Links program will provide a pathway to earlier entry into HIV care, building and reinforcing strong links to care through the tailored smart phone app. Counseling sessions based on the CDC-endorsed Antiretroviral Treatment and Services program will provide information about the disease and present skills and strategies for living with HIV; these lessons will be reinforced by the app. Also, a priority access pathway for newly diagnosed HIV-infected persons will ensure that they receive care within 24 hours of contacting the Positive Links coordinator. Project staff hopes the app will provide the critical support the newly diagnosed person needs. Project staff is in the process of developing the app and expects to begin recruiting participants this summer.