Adaptive Antiretroviral Therapy Adherence Interventions for Youth Living With HIV Through Text Message and Cell Phone Support With and Without Incentives: Protocol for a Sequential Multiple Assignment Randomized Trial (SMART)

JMIR Res Protoc. 2018 Dec 20;7(12):e11183. doi: 10.2196/11183.


Background: Youth living with HIV (YLH) aged 13 to 24 years made up over a fifth (21%) of new HIV diagnoses in 2016, yet only 27% of YLH are virally suppressed. YLH have been shown to be poorly adherent to antiretroviral therapy (ART); however, there has been limited research investigating how to increase adherence in YLH. Mobile health (mHealth) interventions may be one promising way to do this.

Objective: This study (ATN [Adolescent Trials Network] 144 SMART) aimed to compare adaptive interventions that could increase ART adherence in YLH aged 15 to 24 years. This includes mHealth initiatives, the tapering of interventions, and the use of incentives. Cost-effectiveness of sequencing the interventions without incentives before providing incentives and the savings on societal costs due to suppressed viral loads will be determined. This protocol is part of the ATN Scale It Up program described in this issue by Naar et al.

Methods: This study uses a Sequential Multiple Assignment Randomized Trial design. Approximately 190 participants are being recruited, enrolled, and randomized to either cell phone support or text message support. Both intervention groups receive 3 months of intervention, followed by a second randomization based on response to the intervention. Responders test tapering their intervention, and nonresponders test receiving incentives.

Results: Data collection for this study is projected to begin in August 2018 and last until June 2020.

Conclusions: This is an innovative study, particularly in terms of population, intervention types, focus on cost-effectiveness, and recruitment. This study could be particularly effective in improving adherence in YLH while reducing long-term individual and societal costs.

Trial registration: NCT03535337; (Archived by WebCite at

International registered report identifier (irrid): PRR1-10.2196/11183.

Keywords: HIV; adaptive clinical trial; adolescent; antiretroviral therapy; cell phone; mHealth; medical adherence; text messaging.

Associated data