Content Analysis and User Characteristics of a Smartphone-Based Online Support Group for People Living with HIV

Tabor E. Flickinger, Claire DeBolt, Erin Wispelwey, Colleen Laurence, Erin Plews-Ogan, Ava Lena Waldman, George Reynolds, Wendy F. Cohn, Mary Catherine Beach, Karen Ingersoll, Rebecca Dillingham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Although there is growing interest in mobile applications and online support groups to enhance chronic disease self-management, little is known about their potential impact for people living with HIV (PLWH). Introduction: We developed an innovative online support group delivered through a community message board (CMB) within a clinic-affiliated smartphone application Positive Links (PL). We analyzed characteristics of posters and nonposters to the CMB and evaluated content posted to the CMB. Materials and Methods: For this study, 38 HIV-infected patients received cell phones with the PL application that included the opportunity to interact with other users on a CMB. Logistic regressions investigated associations between participant characteristics and posting. CMB messages were downloaded and analyzed qualitatively. Results: 24 participants posted to the CMB; 14 did not. Participants had lower odds of posting if they were white (p = 0.028) and had private insurance (p = 0.003). Participants had higher odds of posting if they had unsuppressed viral loads (p = 0.034). Of the 840 CMB messages over 8 months, 62% had psychosocial content, followed by community chat (29%), and biomedical content (10%). Discussion: Psychosocial content was most prevalent on this CMB, in contrast to other online forums dominated by informational content. Participants who posted expressed support for each other, appreciation for the community, and a perception that the app played a positive role in their HIV self-management. Conclusions: This CMB on a clinic-affiliated mobile application may reach vulnerable populations, including racial/ethnic minorities and those of lower socioeconomic status, and provide psychosocial support to PLWH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)746-754
Number of pages9
JournalTelemedicine and e-Health
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • behavioral medicine
  • m-health
  • mobile app
  • online support groups
  • qualitative analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Health Information Management


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