Retention in care and achieving viral load suppression for HIV+ youth and young adults in New York State continues to remain a challenge (see figure). As part of NYS’s Ending the AIDS Epidemic initiative and HRSA’s Special Projects of National Significance, Use of Social Media to Improve Engagement, Retention, and Health Outcomes along the HIV Care Continuum, the NYS Department of Health AIDS Institute created the Y Get It? project.
Y Get It? is designed to facilitate the timely entry of young HIV+ individuals aged 18-34 into HIV care, encourage vulnerable individuals to remain in care, and sustain viral load suppression among those in care. Y Get It? is comprised of a mobile health application (GET!) and Peer Engagement Educator Professionals (PEEPs) who are embedded at Northwell Health on Long Island. Developed by the Mount Sinai App Lab, GET! allows users to track scheduled medical appointments, monitor HIV medication adherence, enter laboratory values (e.g. viral load and CD4), and gain health knowledge. Users can also connect to PEEPs through a secure messaging feature in the GET! app. PEEPs are available to provide peer support, linkage to supportive services, and general check-up on those enrolled in the project.As part of the Y GET IT? project, a new comic series called Tested was created as an additional engagement tool. Tested follows the lives of HIV-infected or affected individuals. It includes a diverse cast representing groups disproportionately burdened by HIV/AIDS. Tested draws inspiration from members of the AIDS Institute’s Young Adult HIV Consumer Advisory Committee (YACAC), AIDS Institute staff, focus groups conducted at HIV service providers throughout NYS, and popular culture. Tested is available on the GET! app and to the general public via Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Extracts from Tested comic serial
The efficacy evaluation of the Y Get It? project and its impact on outcomes (retention, viral load suppression etc.) will be led by the CUNY Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health. Participants enrolled will be individually randomized at a 1:1 ratio to either receive access to the Y Get It? app plus a PEEP with whom they can communicate (Arm 1), or to receive access to the app alone (Arm 2). After one year, those randomized to receive the app alone will be linked to a PEEP.
Enrollment in Y Get It? is currently underway. After the evaluation of the intervention is completed, the GET! app will be made available to the public for HIV care self-management. Y Get It? addresses some of the key priorities of the Ending the Epidemic initiative, namely improving timely linkage to care, retention in care, and viral load suppression.