The use of cell phone reminder calls for assisting HIV-infected adolescents and young adults to adhere to highly active antiretroviral therapy: a pilot study

AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2006 Jun;20(6):438-44. doi: 10.1089/apc.2006.20.438.


Long-term medication regimen adherence is challenging in all populations, but in the HIV-infected adolescent population the frequency of poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, and mental illness make highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) adherence even more challenging. In 2003, we developed a pilot program for HIV-infected adolescents and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who were either going to begin a HAART regimen for the first time or begin a new HAART regimen. Participants received a free cell phone with a local service plan for approximately 6 months. Participants received phone call reminders for 12 weeks. Call frequency was tapered at 4-week intervals. Patients were assessed at 4-week intervals to determine the perceived intrusiveness or helpfulness of receiving calls, and missed medication doses. Eight consecutive patients were recruited for the study, and five were able to complete it through the 24 weeks. Most participants found the calls to be helpful and the level of intrusion into their daily lives acceptable. Using cell phone reminders to assist patients does not require an extensive amount of daily staff time. Tapering calls rapidly over 3 months, followed by discontinuation of calls provided inadequate support for subjects, especially those with significant psychosocial issues such as substance abuse. Use of cell phone reminders to assist adolescents adhere with HIV medications was practical and acceptable to pilot study participants. Viral suppression waned for all but two patients after termination of cell phone reminders and suggests that a 12-week intervention was not adequate for most subjects. Larger prospective studies of cell phone observation of therapy will be needed to determine if this intervention can improve long-term adherence and health outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active*
  • Cell Phone*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Reminder Systems*