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A Video-Based mHealth Program to Support People Living with HIV Across the HIV Care Continuum

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 2R44MD013644-02
Agency Tracking Number: R44MD013644
Amount: $744,090.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: 102
Solicitation Number: PA19-273
Solicitation Year: 2019
Award Year: 2021
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2021-07-29
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2023-04-30
Small Business Information
West Covina, CA 91790-2256
United States
DUNS: 797038580
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: Yes
Principal Investigator
 (213) 744-3070
Business Contact
Phone: (213) 864-8959
Research Institution

This proposed Phase II SBIR project will finalize our Virtual Support System (VSS), a mobile health (mHealth),
video-based system that provides support to young Black men who have sex with men (YBMSM) across the
entire HIV care continuum. There are currently 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States, and
among MSM nationally, Black MSM had the highest number of HIV diagnoses in 2018. Engagement in care is
often thought of as a continuum including 1) HIV diagnosis, 2) linkage to care, 3) retention in care, 4) HIV
antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation, and 5) viral suppression, and YBMSM experience severe disparities
across the HIV care continuum, compared to both older Black MSM and young White and Latino MSM.
Our VSS addresses multi-faceted challenges that lead to poor treatment initiation, adherence, and retention
outcomes among YBMSM. It takes a holistic approach, tailored specifically for YBMSM, to improve well-being
and reduce stigma through customizable video-based support, a community of peers, on-demand information,
and access to local resources within a simple-to-follow user interface. Moreover, VSS fills a critical gap, as
mHealth programs currently available to YBMSM living with HIV are few in number and typically narrow in
scope. VSS will be free of cost for YBMSM and marketed to HIV organizations nationwide.
Our Phase I findings demonstrated that VSS is highly acceptable, usable, and appealing to both YBMSM living
with HIV and their service providers. We hypothesize that VSS, created using human-centered design, will
improve HIV care continuum outcomes (as measured by viral suppression) and reduce stigma among YBMSM
ages 18-29 who are living with HIV. This new intervention will also enhance the ability of HIV service
organizations nationwide to ensure optimal HIV care for YBMSM clients, as VSS can be easily integrated into
their existing linkage and case management services. Several HIV service organizations have expressed a
need for VSS and will support the project as collaborators.
There are three specific aims to our proposal. AIM 1: Complete development of the VSS and Provider
Dashboard in collaboration with YBMSM living with HIV and Providers. AIM 2: Conduct an RCT with YBMSM
living with HIV (n=264 at 5 sites) to assess impact on HIV care continuum and quality of life outcomes. AIM 3:
Conduct a qualitative evaluation of VSS among HIV providers and YBMSM living with HIV.
In Year 1, we will complete development of the VSS product and conduct usability testing and consultation of
advisory boards of service providers and YBMSM living with HIV. Year 2 will involve a randomized control trial
and a qualitative evaluation of VSS. Following Phase II, VSS will be ready to be marketed and rapidly deployed
to HIV service providers and organizations throughout the U.S. to have rapid, wide-scale, and sustainable
impact on HIV care outcomes for YBMSM.PROJECT NARRATIVE
Our Virtual Support System (VSS) is an app and mobile website that provides information and social support to
help young Black men who have sex with men (YBMSM) living with HIV achieve better HIV care continuum
outcomes and overall well-being. In this Phase II SBIR project, we will fully build out and test VSS in a
randomized controlled trial and qualitative evaluation. We will also create a plan to deploy VSS nationally to
organizations that provide HIV testing and care services to YBMSM, to ultimately reduce HIV-related
disparities in this population.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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