A Multilevel Gaming Intervention for Persons on PrEP

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HIV Risk


Behavioral: IMB Gaming Intervention

Study type


Funder types




Details and patient eligibility


This study will develop and test a novel, smartphone based gaming intervention to improve adherence to medication to prevent HIV (known as Pre-exposure Prophylaxis, PrEP) and to decrease HIV risk behaviors among men who have sex with men (MSM). In the intervention, participants will engage with an immersive app/game on their iPhone. While gaming, participants will gain information about their health, improve motivation for PrEP and medical appointment adherence, and practice healthy behaviors. If the intervention is found to be effective, it can be tested in a larger study and then disseminated to other people taking PrEP.

Full description

The use of antiretroviral medications to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV infection (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis, PrEP) is an efficacious and promising new prevention strategy. In published studies, failure of PrEP was associated with poor adherence and low plasma drug levels. This indicates that optimal PrEP treatment will require behavioral interventions to promote adherence. Averting increases in risk behavior will also be essential for maintaining PrEP's protective effects. Interventions will need to address on-going HIV risk behavior and be relevant for persons using PrEP (e.g. young adult MSM). Borrowing from recent literature in HIV prevention and treatment adherence, interventions that utilize intuitive easy to use technologies with motivational components show promise for behavior change and dissemination. This study will examine an interactive smartphone based app/game that is immersive and appealing. This novel, but intuitive multi-level technology will measure PrEP adherence, promote engagement in treatment and safe sexual behavior. The smartphone app/game will be developed to include content consistent with the Information-Motivation-Behavioral Skills (IMB) Model. While gaming, participants will experience absorbing action-oriented adventures that increase information about their health (e.g. knowledge about PrEP treatment and HIV), improve motivation (e.g. action-figures experience health benefits of adherence), and build skills (e.g. utilize clinicians as partners, condom self efficacy). In-depth interviews with young adults on PrEP and an open trial of the intervention will inform the development of the intervention and procedures. A small randomized controlled pilot study among 50 participants on PrEP will examine the preliminary efficacy of the intervention (IMB informed app/game). It is hypothesized that, compared to subjects in the control group, participants in the IMB Gaming Intervention will show: improved adherence to PrEP, higher blood ARV levels, decreased HIV risk behaviors, and improved self efficacy and attitudes for PrEP treatment adherence. The specific aims are: To create an engaging and absorbing smartphone based app/game with content consistent with the Information-Motivation-Behavioral Skills (IMB) model to measure and improve PrEP treatment adherence and safer sex behaviors, and to receive feedback on the game's utility and acceptability from in-depth interviews with MSM (estimated mean age 27). To conduct an open trial of the IMB Gaming Intervention with MSM to obtain further qualitative and quantitative information on its acceptability, and feasibility. These data will be used to modify the approach and technology as needed. To evaluate, in a 24 week randomized controlled pilot study (n=50), the preliminary efficacy of the IMB Gaming Intervention compared to a time, attention, and technology matched group. Investigators will examine the impact of the IMB Gaming Intervention in improving treatment adherence (measured by clinic visits attended, self-report) and biological measures (ARV levels). Investigators will also examine the impact on HIV risk behaviors.


82 patients




18+ years old


Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion and exclusion criteria

Inclusion Criteria: All males on PrEP over the age of 18

  • English speaking
  • Receiving prophylactic antiretroviral treatment
  • Not enrolled in another PrEP related study
  • Able to give consent/assent and not impaired by cognitive or medical limitations as per clinical assessment.

Exclusion Criteria:


Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Parallel Assignment


None (Open label)

82 participants in 2 patient groups

Experimental group
Subjects in the intervention group will each receive a smartphone with a data service plan as the active arm. The IMB Gaming Intervention is designed to improve information, motivation, and skills about adherence and HIV preventative behaviors throughout play. The mission of Viral Combat is: kill virus and build strength through taking medicine, learning HIV prevention information, and engaging with healthy characters in order to improve motivation and build skills. Participants will get a game graphic with a supportive message such as "Missing you: Get in the Game" to their phones. Throughout the gaming intervention subjects will continue routine clinical care visits and HIV testing in the PrEP clinic.
Behavioral: IMB Gaming Intervention
No Intervention group
This condition will be matched with the IMB Gaming Intervention for appeal, time and attention. Subjects in COMP will each receive smartphones with the same data service plan as the active arm. Smartphones given to participants in COMP will have a stylistically similar non-PrEP, non-IMB game designed by Mission Critical Studios (Dr. Nano X: Incredible Voyage Inside The Body, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyHzSZFzU1Q ). This is the same game that Viral Combat is being adapted from. Therefore, the iPhone game in COMP will have a look and feel that is very similar to our intervention game but without IMB, PrEP, and HIV prevention related content. Similar to the Intervention group, participants will have routine clinical care visits in the PrEP clinic (or more frequently if needed for urgent care).

Trial documents

Trial contacts and locations



Data sourced from clinicaltrials.gov

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