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Focus groups inform a mobile health intervention to promote adherence to a Mediterranean diet and engagement in physical activity among people living with HIV



A personalized mobile health intervention (iSTEP) aims to promote a Mediterranean diet and increase physical activity, thereby improving neurocognitive functioning among persons living with HIV (PLWH). This article describes a qualitative study conducted to develop iSTEP for PLWH, including assessment of diet habits and preferences for tracking physical activity.


Two focus groups, with seven and 13 PLWH respectively, discussed barriers and facilitators of a healthy diet and provided feedback to refine iSTEP components, including the feasibility of using a Fitbit and the content of text messages designed to encourage improved diet and physical activity.


Focus group discussions revealed several healthy diet barriers, including housing instability, time required for food preparation, cost of healthy food, depression, gastrointestinal issues, physical disability, and changes in appetite since HIV diagnosis. Participant-identified healthy diet facilitators included affordable price options for healthy food, a structured food plan, desire to modify appearance or weight, access to medical professionals, motivation for disease prevention, and social support. Participants endorsed wearing a Fitbit on the wrist and receiving text messages as useful methods to monitor and encourage a better diet and greater physical activity.


These findings assisted the expansion of a mobile health intervention that promotes health behaviors in order to improve neurocognitive outcomes among PLWH.

Trial registration

NCT03123731 , prospectively registered on, April 21, 2017.

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