HRSA Publishes Special Collection of Articles from SPNS Social and Digital Media Initiative

Content From: Laura Cheever, MD, ScM, Associate Administrator for the HIV/AIDS Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesPublished: August 31, 20203 min read


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This month the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) released a collection of manuscripts in Health Promotion Practice (HPP) September 2020 edition, highlighting models of care and outcomes from an initiative that utilized innovative social media methods to link and retain hard-to-reach youth and young adults in HIV primary care and supportive services. HRSA’s Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) Program “Use of Social Media to Improve Engagement, Retention, and Health Outcomes along the HIV Care Continuum” initiative funded demonstration projects in ten cities throughout the country from fiscal year 2015-2019.

The journal features eight peer-reviewed papers that show significant promise in using tailored, mobile technology-based platforms to improve HIV-related care and treatment to reach young gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) and transgender women.  Demonstration projects implemented and evaluated the acceptability and impact of using different social media and messaging services (e.g., Facebook messaging and optional secret group, texting, and original or adapted mobile apps). Such technologies previously have been found to be used frequently by GBMSM and transgender women aged 18 to 34 years.

Data from the four-year qualitative and quantitative studies showed significant outcomes using the mobile health applications, including increased patient engagement and retention in care, support in medication adherence, patient adjustment to their diagnosis, improved social support, and reduced stigma.  One study, utilizing an app named “OPT-In for Life,” showed increases in viral suppression rates among the HIV initiative young participants from 64 percent at baseline to 85 percent at six-month and at 12-month follow-up and 91 percent at 18-month among participants who were retained in care.

HRSA’s Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program provides a comprehensive system of HIV primary medical care, medication, and essential support services for low-income people with HIV. For three decades, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program funds grants to states, cities, counties, and local community-based organizations to provide HIV care and treatment services, improve health outcomes, and reduce HIV transmission among hard-to-reach populations. In 2018, 87.1 percent of Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program clients receiving HIV medical care were virally suppressed, exceeding the national viral suppression average of 64.7 percent.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 40,000 people receive an HIV diagnosis each year in the United States.  Without intervention, an additional 400,000 Americans will be newly diagnosed over 10 years, despite the availability of effective HIV prevention tools. HRSA’s Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program plays an important role in the Administration’s Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America initiative, which aims to reduce the number of new HIV infections in the United States by 90 percent by 2030.

To review the online HPP manuscript collection, visit