Using technology to assess and intervene with illicit drug-using persons at risk for HIV

Curr Opin HIV AIDS. 2017 Sep;12(5):458-466. doi: 10.1097/COH.0000000000000398.


Purpose of review: This review describes recent literature on novel ways technology is used for assessment of illicit drug use and HIV risk behaviours, suggestions for optimizing intervention acceptability, and recently completed and ongoing technology-based interventions for drug-using persons at risk for HIV and others with high rates of drug use and HIV risk behaviour.

Recent findings: Among studies (n = 5) comparing technology-based to traditional assessment methods, those using Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) had high rates of reported drug use and high concordance with traditional assessment methods. The two recent studies assessing the acceptability of mHealth approaches overall demonstrate high interest in these approaches. Current or in-progress technology-based interventions (n = 8) are delivered using mobile apps (n = 5), text messaging (n = 2) and computers (n = 1). Most intervention studies are in progress or do not report intervention outcomes; the results from one efficacy trial showed significantly higher HIV testing rates among persons in need of drug treatment.

Summary: Studies are needed to continually assess technology adoption and intervention preferences among drug-using populations to ensure that interventions are appropriately matched to users. Large-scale technology-based intervention trials to assess the efficacy of these approaches, as well as the impact of individual intervention components, on drug use and other high-risk behaviours are recommended.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Phone*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Mobile Applications / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk
  • Text Messaging*


  • Illicit Drugs