CONRAD has recently presented its latest data on Vuka+, a new smartphone-based app to support adherence in adolescent girls/young women, at the Adherence 2023 Conference.
Adherence to a daily pill can be challenging, especially for young populations. New technologies could provide significant improvements for individuals and providers to monitor and support adherence and engage with them outside of the clinic on their own time. Vuka+ is a smartphone intervention app tailored to support medication adherence, persistence, and social support for adolescent girls and young women in South Africa by connecting users to a supportive community of other women for sharing resources about relationships, wellness, and sexual health.
The Vuka+ smartphone application has been specifically tailored for African AGYW in a way that is educational, practical, engaging, and culturally appropriate with the ultimate goal of supporting consistent use. CONRAD, The Behavior and Technology Laboratory, and One Cow Standing have further developed the HealthMpowerment intervention concept into Vuka+. The app and a pilot randomized clinical trial conducted in Cape Town, South Africa were implemented by CONRAD, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, FHI 360, Desmond Tutu Health Foundation, and One Cow Standing, bringing customization and enhancement to existing platform features as well as adding new features:
- A health tracker to help visualize and establish behavior patterns and meet adherence goals with calendars, analytics, and self-monitoring.
- Forums space for polls and discussions fostering community support
- Offline/low-bandwidth connectivity for better functionality
- Branding and aesthetic changes based on in-depth beta-tester feedback: HCD V brand
A pilot study examining acceptability and usability of the Vuka+ intervention app found that one third of participants used the app consistently to track PrEP and reported high medication adherence (50% self-reported; >80% pills taken). Participants also used the app an average of 5.6 times/week, finding the information trustworthy, the app easy to use, and the provided tools helpful for facing the challenges of taking PrEP. The medication and behavioral trackers were the most utilized and positively evaluated features, with 74% of testers agreeing that the app would help them to remember to take their daily pills.
A refined version of the Vuka+ app based on results of the pilot study is currently undergoing an expanded effectiveness & implementation study.
Vuka+ is part of the activities of Project ENGAGE, which is investigating factors associated with the acceptability of, and adherence to, oral PrEP in adolescent girls and young women in Africa who are at risk of HIV, acknowledging ever-expanding product choice.
The app development and studies were made possible by the generous support of the American people from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of CONRAD and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.