NIH-funded project to explore role of app in encouraging HIV, STI testing

By Heather Mack
02:37 pm
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A new project, funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, will investigate a personalized web app that is specifically designed to encourage young men at-risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections to get routine testing.

The project, called “Get Connected,” will be carried out in collaboration with the nursing schools from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan, and is part of the NIH’s new Adolescent Trials Network. Over the next four years, the trial will enroll over 400 young men between the ages of 15 and 24 who live in Philadelphia, Atlanta and Houston. 

The app was designed by Dr. Jose A. Bauermeister, director of Penn Nursing’s Program in Sexuality, Technology and Action Research. He said the app is different from existing online HIV and STI testing center locators in that it provides young men with strategies to overcome any barriers that keep them from getting tested.

“Using tailoring technology, we can customize the content based on users’ risk profile, their values and needs, and other characteristics unique to each individual,” Bauermeister said in a statement.

The investigators believe the target population will benefit from the app as they are a demographic that is likely to own a smartphone, download apps, and use devices to access health information online.

“With high levels of technology use among young people, particularly smartphones and social media, online interventions offer an acceptable and efficient way to reach this highly vulnerable population,” Dr. Rob Stephensen, director of the Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities and co-investigator of the project said in a statement. “Continuing to examine the public health potential of our web app remains a priority for us.”