Using mobile technology to prevent HIV and related Youth Health problems – Sexual health, Mental health, and Substance use in southwest Uganda (YHSMS)

Adolescence is a developmental period associated with the increased importance of peers, increased technology use, increased mobility, initiation of sex, emergence of mental health disorders (if at risk), and initiation of alcohol use. Consequently, adolescence is a critical time for preventive interventions, and our preliminary qualitative work shows the importance of mobile phones for finding sexual partners, and the as yet under-utilized potential for mobile phones to promote health. Poor mental health and alcohol abuse are associated with increased risk for HIV infection. Thus, this initial step of screening and linking adolescents with mental health or alcohol use problems to counselors, may help address these factors and also reduce the risk for HIV infection. Further, PrEP has only recently been made available to adolescents in Uganda and is not currently included in the existing FHI 360 #161 system. As described by the CDC, PrEP is a way for people who do not have HIV but who are at very high risk of getting HIV to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day. Studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken daily. Adolescents today rely heavily on mobile phones for information and services, thus we believe the proposed intervention could be applied and adapted across the region, and potentially in other under-resourced settings. This study will result in the development of one of the first mobile phone-based interventions for adolescents in East Africa that begins to address sexual health, mental health, and alcohol use.

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