June 7, 2022

Volunteers needed for GEMS+ study


NIH-funded study will test a new health app for smokers living with HIV

Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) is recruiting volunteers for a research study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Investigators are seeking feedback on a new mobile health app for people living with HIV who also smoke cigarettes. 

The pilot study — called GEMS+ — will inform the feasibility and acceptability of the app and provide important insight into the app’s potential ability to help people change their smoking habits when they are ready to do so. The results will be used to refine the intervention and plan for a future large-scale trial to test the app’s effectiveness.

"Most people who smoke cigarettes want to quit someday, but they are not ready to quit right away," said Jennifer McClure, PhD, who is leading the study at KPWHRI. "Unfortunately, standard interventions are not designed for these people. They need special support and assistance that recognizes their ambivalence about quitting smoking. Our goal is to provide that.”  

Investigators chose to focus on smokers living with HIV for several reasons. Smoking rates are higher among people with HIV than in the general population. And tobacco use is particularly harmful in this group because smoking impairs immune functioning, increases the risk of non-HIV illness, and weakens the effectiveness of antiretroviral HIV medications. More smokers living with HIV now die from smoking-related causes than from HIV/AIDS. But standard smoking interventions haven’t been as effective for people living with HIV as for other people. So, novel interventions are needed that are designed to address the unique needs of this population.

The GEMS+ app was co-designed by psychologists, smokers, and people living with HIV to address the unique needs of smokers living with HIV who are not necessarily ready to change their smoking habits. It includes tailored advice, support, and other tools to help people reach their personal health goals.  

“But an intervention is only effective if people like it and use it,” said Dr. McClure. “This pilot study will help us understand what people think of our new app and whether it appears to provide the support they need.”

Participating in the study

Individuals may be eligible to volunteer for this study if they are living with HIV, smoke cigarettes, and meet other requirements. Volunteers do not need to be Kaiser Permanente members to participate.

Fifty participants will be recruited and randomly assigned to try 1 of 2 versions of the app. They will be asked to provide feedback during a 3-month period. Participants can receive up to $95 in gift cards in appreciation for their time and input. Participation is virtual.

Interested in volunteering? To learn more about the study and determine eligibility, call 1-855-397-9699 or email GEMS@kp.org. Please include your name, phone number, and the best time to reach you in your email or voice message. You will receive a call back and be asked to complete a brief phone survey to determine eligibility.

The study is funded by the NIH and supported by Kaiser Permanente. 

By Amelia Apfel

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