April 6, 2012
The Center for Gender, Sexuality and HIV Prevention at Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital is studying text messaging as a way to increase treatment adherence in HIV-positive youths.
The "TxTxt Study" has enrolled more than 70 youths. "A centralized computerized text message is sent to each of the participants using a message of their own choosing like drink your juice Shelby' to remind them to take their meds," said principal researcher Dr. Robert Garafalo.
Garafalo, the director of adolescent HIV services at Children's Memorial and associate professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, noted that his own experience with youth -- "their social reality and in some cases addiction to text messaging" -- inspired the study.
Eligible youths must "be on a prescribed regimen of treatment and have their own cell phone," said Garafalo, who is still seeking to recruit an additional 50 participants 12 months into the 30-month study. The study targets vulnerable populations -- homeless and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people.
TxTxt builds upon the results of a National Institutes of Health project that focused on a smaller group for a shorter time. That study found the texts did boost the youths' likelihood of compliance. "The pilot group found the text messages annoying but very helpful," said Garafalo.
Originally a primary care physician, Garafalo found himself drawn to working with adolescents and specializing in care for the HIV-positive. He conceded, "Working with younger people with HIV is no different than working with those who are negative. They still talk about dating, school, acne. These are normal adolescents."
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