Modern advancements in science and technology have made it easier for people living with HIV. Recently, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University revealed that they were able to help better HIV care by gamifying it with a mobile gaming application.
The researchers used gaming features — similar to those used to improve airline loyalty and track daily steps — to assist young male adults living with HIV. They used the features to suppress and double their chances of reaching near-perfect adherence to HIV care medication plans.
When a doctor’s advice and the patent’s good intentions are not enough, the gamification app steps in to inspire behavioral changes. It motivates those living with HIV to stick with their antiretroviral therapy (ART). The treatment keeps them healthy by suppressing HIV.
The lead researcher Lisa Hightow-Weidman said that the app delivered daily health messages in a digestible form. Hightow-Weidman is a medicine and health behavior professor and a mHealth researcher who directs UNC Behavior and Technology Lab in the UNC School of Medicine.
The professor and her team worked with a web application development company, Caktus Group. The study involved 126 participants, and at 26 weeks, viral suppression among the app users was at 62.9%. That of those in the control group was at 73.5%. However, as promising as the app is, there are limitations.
The researchers stated that issues with app use metrics limit the ability to say that the app was effective in causing behavioral changes that enabled better HIV care and health. Hightow-Weidman believes they can surpass this limitation as technology is emerging to support high-risk patients.
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