$210,871 Federal Study Uses Smartphones to Stop Spread of HIV among Gay Men – in Romania

(CNSNews.com) – The National Institutes of Health has awarded a $210,871 grant to Hunter College “to employ mobile health (mHealth) technologies to reduce the spread of HIV among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in the Central Eastern European country of Romania.”

The study will be the first of its kind to “culturally tailor and evaluate” the use of “an mHealth intervention” to reduce “HIV risk behavior among Romanian MSM.”

If it proves effective, the project will be “replicated in similar international communities to provide easily accessible HIV prevention support where stigma and lack of resources contribute to the spread of HIV among MSM,” according to the project’s public health relevance statement.

“Rampant stigma contributes to the increasing prevalence of HIV among Romanian MSM and drives a lack of access to MSM-friendly HIV prevention services,” the project summary said.

“While our established Internet-based chat intervention circumvents barriers to access and supports health in stigmatizing contexts, we will translate it to a fully mobile platform and incorporate local cultural needs to ensure feasibility and appeal, and maximize efficacy among Romanian MSM,” it said.

“Delivering an innovative live chat counseling program alongside real-time risk behavior tracking on mobile devices can curb the increasing prevalence of HIV among Romanian MSM,” the grant said.

Interviews will be conducted in the first six months with five “key community informants and 15 MSM” to guide researchers in “assessing local HIV prevention needs and adapting the intervention for cultural resonance.”

Researchers will work with technical software developer Data Center Solutions “to translate the intervention tools for mHealth delivery (smartphone chat intervention platform and real-time behavioral tracking tools),” the grant said.

“If proven feasible, acceptable, and preliminarily efficacious in this pilot trial, this development project will mark the beginning of a program of applied mHealth research and practice for efficacy and effectiveness trials in other geographic locales where MSM are disproportionately affected by HIV and underserved by standard prevention approaches,” it added.

The project started on Sept. 10, 2014 and ends on April 30, 2016. Funding for the project also began on Sept. 10, 2014 but ends on April 30, 2015.

CNSNews.com contacted Corina Lelutiu-Weinberger, project leader for the grant, by email for further comment, but no response was given by press time.

by Melanie Hunter
Source – CNSnews.com