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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

George Mason: A Co-Led Study Finds Digital Intervention Reduces Depressive Symptoms in Randomized Control Trial of People Living with HIV

More than a third of people living with human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, (PLWH) in the world have elevated depressive symptoms. Most PLWH live in developing countries with limited access to mental health services due to HIV-related stigma and a shortage of mental health professionals. Smart phones offer a promising mode to deliver intervention.

Dr. Alicia Hong, professor at George Mason University College of Health and Human Services and her colleagues in China developed the digital intervention Run4Love on the popular social media app WeChat. They evaluated Run4Love with a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of 300 PLWH with depression in China. The results were recently published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Run4Love was a 12-week multimedia digital program. Participants received stress reduction exercises, cognitive therapy, and exercise guidance on WeChat. Their progress was monitored with timely and tailored feedback. The intervention led to a significant reduction in depressive symptoms (0.6 effect size) at 3-month follow-up; the effect was sustained at 6- and 9-months follow-ups. The intervention also effectively reduced stress and suicidal behaviors, and improved quality of life of PLWH.

“This is one of the first RCTs with long-term follow-ups to evaluate digital interventions in global health settings.” Hong explains, “The success of Run4Love suggests an app-based digital intervention is feasible for many PLWH in resource-limited settings.”

This study was funded by China National Science Foundation and China Medica Board. Other key team members include Dr. Yan Guo (project PI)’s group from the Sun Yat-sen University School of Public Health and Dr. Weiping Cai’s group from Guangzhou Number Eight People’s Hospital.

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