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Perceived risks and amelioration of harm in research using mobile technology to support antiretroviral therapy adherence in the context of methamphetamine use: a focus group study among minorities living with HIV.

  • Author(s): Pasipanodya, Elizabeth C
  • Kohli, Maulika
  • Fisher, Celia B
  • Moore, David J
  • Curtis, Brenda
  • et al.
Abstract

BACKGROUND:Methamphetamine use poses a barrier to antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence. Black and Hispanic men who have sex with men living with HIV (PLWH) shoulder much of the health burden resulting from the methamphetamine and HIV syndemic. Smartphones are nearly ubiquitous in the USA and may be promising vehicles for delivering interventions for ART adherence and drug use cessation. However, the acceptability of using applications to collect sensitive information and deliver feedback in this population has not been adequately explored. OBJECTIVE:This study examined minority PLWH's appraisals of the risks of participating in smartphone-based research to promote ART adherence in the context of methamphetamine use and explored their views on appropriate steps to mitigate perceived risks of participation. METHODS:Three focus groups were conducted among Black and Hispanic PLWH who use methamphetamine. Of the 13 participants, 5 had previously participated in a smartphone-based observational study of ART adherence and substance use. Discussants provided feedback on smartphone-based research, including receiving probes for HIV medication adherence, mood, and substance use as well as feedback on passive location-tracking for personalized messages. Transcribed audio-recordings were thematically coded and analyzed using the qualitative software MAXQDA. RESULTS:Participants expressed confidentiality concerns related to potential unintentional disclosure of their HIV status and methamphetamine use and to possible legal consequences. They additionally expressed concerns around the invasiveness of daily assessments and the potential of methamphetamine use questions to trigger cravings. To mitigate these concerns, they suggested maintaining participant privacy by indirectly asking sensitive questions, focusing on positive behaviors (e.g., number of days sober), allowing user-initiated reporting of location to tailor messages, and ensuring adequate data protections. In addition to financial compensation, participants cited altruism (specifically, continuing a tradition of volunteerism in HIV research) as a motivator for potentially engaging in such research. CONCLUSIONS:Minority PLWH have concerns regarding the use of smartphones for ART adherence and methamphetamine sobriety intervention research. However, minority PLWH are likely to participate if studies include appropriate protections against risks to confidentiality and experimental harm and are designed to offer future benefit to themselves and other PLWH.

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