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AIDS Care. 2018;30(sup4):21-33. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2018.1503224. Epub 2019 Jan 9.

Enhancing health among youth living with HIV using an iPhone game.

Author information

a Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior , Alpert Medical School of Brown University , Providence , RI , USA.
b Rhode Island Hospital , Providence , RI , USA.
c University for Mississippi Medical Center , Jackson , MS , USA.
d Jackson State University , Jackson , MS , USA.



Despite promising outcomes of antiretroviral therapy (ART), challenges to improving adherence among youth living with HIV (YLWH) exist. Mobile games are popular among youth and may improve skills related to resilience, coping, and ART adherence. This study examines the preliminary effects of an iPhone game/app on ART adherence, viral load, and relevant knowledge and attitudes among YLWH in Jackson, MS.


A RCT with 61 YLWH tested the impact of BattleViro, an ART-related iPhone game, over 16 weeks. Participants, ages 14-26, were recruited from HIV clinics and randomly assigned to receive BattleViro or a non-HIV-related game. All participants received a medication monitoring device. Chi-square and t-test analyses examined baseline differences between conditions. Continuous outcomes were examined using analyses of covariance (ANCOVAs) controlling for baseline scores. Cohen's d effect size differences (ESD) between groups were calculated.


The sample was 79% male, 97% Black, and 74% non-heterosexual, with a mean age of 22 years. A third had started ART in the past 3 months. There were no demographic differences between conditions. Examination of ESDs revealed that BattleViro demonstrated promising, but nonsignificant, improvements in HIV knowledge (ESD = 0.50), ART knowledge (ESD = 0.42) and social support (ESD = 0.62). Exploratory moderation analyses revealed interactions between BattleViro and newly starting ART. Those newly starting ART in the BattleViro condition, compared to those in the control, experienced a 0.96 log greater decrease in viral load (ESD=-2.21, F = 4.33, p = 0.04), better adherence (71% vs. 48%; ESD = 1.15, F = 3.90, p = 0.05), more HIV knowledge (ESD = 0.90), and more ART knowledge (ESD = 0.72).


BattleViro showed promising improvements in HIV knowledge, ART knowledge and social support. Also, there was improved adherence and viral load outcomes specifically among those newly starting ART. ART initiation may be an opportunity to empower and motivate YLWH to build healthy skills.


Adolescents; adherence; antiretrovirals; gaming

[Available on 2020-01-09]

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