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Making music to help people with HIV

Emory Nursing | Aug. 28, 2017

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Marcia Holstad saw great potential in the LIVE Network as an education tool for HIV clinicians and had a developer repackage it as a smartphone application called Music for Health.

Taking antiretroviral medication each day is an absolute necessity for people living with HIV. Without strict adherence to their treatment regimen, they risk further illness or spread of the disease.

To combat the problem, Emory nursing professor Marcia Holstad  PhD FNP-BC FAANP FAAN, created the LIVE Network, a 70-minute simulated talk show and music program to educate and motivate men and women about their health and taking their medication. The network covered topics such as T-cells, viral load, and dealing with side effects from disease and medication. The music—12 songs from different genres—made learning about HIV enjoyable in keeping with the program theme of "every dose, every day."

When Holstad tested the LIVE Network a few years ago, study participants asked if they could share the MP3 program with family members to help them understand what it means to be HIV positive. Some participants used the program to disclose their HIV status.

Holstad saw great potential in the LIVE Network as an education tool for HIV clinicians and had a developer repackage it as a smartphone application called Music for Health. The app includes 12 songs with music videos and content and web links related to HIV, medication adherence, and symptom self-management. A total of 149 adults, predominately African American, evaluated Music for Health at six sites in rural Georgia.

Holstad and her collaborators in Emory's schools of medicine and nursing are now analyzing four years' worth of data. What have researchers found thus far?

"We learned that we need to keep participants interested," says Holstad. "Our app was built to include all 12 songs at one time. Ideally, it would be better to roll out a new song every few months and add some type of engagement to keep people's interest. But people definitely liked the app and told us they shared the information with their children, grandchildren, and nieces and nephews."