Background: Avatars have shown promise in behavioral health promotion research. They can be personalized to a userÕs preferences facilitating engagement. An avatar can teach, motivate medication adherence, and illustrate behavioral skills as an intervention for HIV patients at risk for or known to be non adherent that may lead to viral suppression. We developed a theory-driven Avatar-based mobile phone application (app) with two overarching functions: to provide educational information and assist with medication management.
Methods: This study included four focus groups recruited from HIV patient care and outreach sites in Chicago during 2016. Inclusion criteria: age 18-34 years, HIV-positive and on ART for at least 3 months by self-report, and smartphone ownership. Using an iterative approach, participants were shown the mobile phone app at progressive stages of development and engaged to express preferences and influence educational and motivational language, information, functions, and avatar characteristics.
Results: Acceptability of the avatar and app functions was universal among participants (N=12). Enthusiasm for the concept was expressed: ÒIÕm going to ask him a lot of questions about medication!Ó Preferences for Avatar characteristics included having a young African American male dressed like a doctor. Privacy concerns were expressed; solutions included requiring passwords for app access and the ability to disguise the screen (e.g., if other persons are Òtrying to be nosy.Ó) Participants encouraged motivational language regarding adherence and requested motivation concerning depression and social isolation. Information needs included strategies for persisting ART side effects, explaining ART benefits, adherence topics, and transmission risk when viral load is undetectable. The developed app has an Avatar answer 23 questions, records and displays adherence patterns and CD4 and viral load trends, and explains all antiretroviral medication (Figure).
Conclusion: We have developed the first avatar-based mobile phone app for HIV education and medication management. This avatar-based app is acceptable to young AAMSM, reflects their concern for stigma, motivates related to their mental health concerns, and will be pilot tested in the next phase of this study.
A. Chakraborty, None
D. Qato, None
C. Monahan, None
L. B. Hightow-Weidman, None
R. Garofalo, None