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What is HealthMpowerment?

HealthMpowerment (HMP) is an app designed to provide health and wellness information and resources relevant to young people in the United States. HMP covers a range of health and lifestyle topics to support users’ diverse backgrounds and varying needs over time.

HMP was created by Lisa Hightow-Weidman, MD, MPH, a public health scientist with extensive expertise in mHealth interventions.

Visit the HMP Website


Risk Reduction Findings

HMP has effectively reduced condomless anal intercourse (CAI) and HIV-related stigma among young black men who have sex with men (YBMSM) living with and at-risk for HIV.

In an RCT comparing HMP to an information-only control arm, rates of CAI at 3-months were 32% lower in the HMP group (IR 0.68, 95% CI: 0.43, 0.93) and the intervention was more effective for participants who used HMP for more than 60 minutes during the 3-month intervention period.

In subsequent mixed-methods analysis, online discussions around HIV stigma were associated with HIV-related communication (e.g., provider communication, HIV status disclosure to sexual partners) and improved HIV care outcomes (e.g., perceived barriers to treatment access, engagement in care, self-reported adherence) over time.


HMP Stigma

HMP is an app-delivered intervention designed with and for young, Black and Latinx gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and transgender women. The intervention aims to improve HIV prevention and care by providing a platform where participants can find social support, build community, and engage with issues that matter to them. The app includes educational information on a range of health and lifestyle topics, delivered in a variety of formats (e.g. articles, quizzes, activities). HIV testing, prevention, and care resources are provided through an “Ask the Expert” feature hosted by a health navigator and board-certified infectious disease physician. The HMP approach strives to amplify resilience among participants by bringing diverse people together in dialogue as a critical step toward change.



Learn more about the last iteration of HealthMpowerment here.

Eligibility Criteria: View eligibility criteria here on the website

Study Team: Aimee Rochelle, MPH
Principal Investigators: Lisa Hightow-Weidman, MD, MPH (m-PI);  Kate Muessig, PhD; José Bauermeister, MPH, PhD 


Illustration of person of color interpreting dataBeginning in July 2021, the Youth Advisory Board (YAB) and the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) merged and was renamed the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Research Consultants (DEI RC). The DEI RC provides consultation on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, research materials and processes, and social media trends within various studies in the Behavior and Technology Lab (BATLab) at UNC-Chapel Hill. Additionally, members have the flexibility to create audio, visual, and written content that is available to participants in different research studies, and they assist with participant engagement in forums.

Click here to learn more about the DEI RC.

Adrian Williams, M.S. (they/them)
Adrian Williams, M.S. (they/them)

The DEI RC is supervised and managed by Adrian Williams, M.S. (they/them). Adrian earned their B.A. in Sociology and M.S. in Counseling Psychology. In addition to their role in the BATLab, Adrian, owns a small business, Cabrera-Williams Consulting Inc. Adrian is in the process of becoming a licensed therapist and received hours towards licensure by counseling at the LGBTQ Center OC in Orange County, California, and in the Val Verde Unified School District in Perris, California. Additionally, Adrian has worked in a Womxn’s Center and as a Title IX administrator. Adrian has expertise in the following subjects: diversity, equity, and inclusion, counseling, LGBTQ+ populations, womxn, project management, and workplace harassment and discrimination.

Adrian’s professional and educational background demonstrate their commitment to creating positive societal change. They have earned certificates in Diversity and Inclusion, Inclusive Excellence, Women’s Leadership, and Interprofessional Education and have training in mental health, trauma-informed practices, and racial equity. Adrian has public speaking experience and has spoken at many prestigious conferences and universities. In whatever capacity they serve, they aim to make everyone around them better and inspire folx to pursue the evolution of their best self holistically.


MASI logoAbout the Study
Study Title: Developing a Smartphone App to Improve Treatment Adherence among South African Adolescents Living with HIV
Study Implementers: University of Cape Town (South Africa), Duke University School of Nursing (USA), and University of North Carolina (USA)
Study Sponsor: U.S. National Institute of Mental Health
Grant #: 1K01MH118072-01A1
Principal Investigator: Dr. Marta Mulawa (Duke University)
Co-Investigators: Dr. Jackie Hoare (University of Cape Town) and Dr. Lisa Hightow-Weidman (University of North Carolina)

Screenshot of MASI home screen with an avatar of a black woman, today's tasks - just for you which includes activities, articles, and posts. Text above it that says MASI is an app for South African youth to connect and find resources for a healthy, empowered life.

Overview: The purpose of this study is to customize and pilot MASI (MAsakhane Siphucule Impilo Yethu, Xhosa for “Let’s empower each other and improve our health”), an app-based intervention to promote adherence to HIV treatment among adolescents living with perinatally-acquired HIV in Cape Town, South Africa.

MASI is built using the HealthMpowerment platform. Through an anonymous interactive discussion forum, MASI provides opportunities for participants to interact with each other and trained peer mentors to receive and provide social support. Through the health tracker, MASI provides opportunities for participants to self-monitor their treatment adherence and schedule tailored reminders. MASI also supports goal-setting and action planning by guiding participants through activities where they can identify goals, select action items, and receive tailored feedback on the action plan. Finally, through numerous activities (including quizzes, self-assessments, and goal-setting activities), multi-media resources, and an Ask the Expert area of the app, MASI provides opportunities for participants to review comprehensive health information in engaging formats

We are in the process of iteratively customizing MASI through in-depth interviews and app-testing with adolescents living with HIV in Cape Town. We recently conducted in-depth interviews with 15 adolescents to inform the development and customization of content to address their needs. Next, we will conduct app testing of MASI. Study activities for this phase of research will include a set of two in-depth interviews with 12-16 adolescents living with HIV. During the first interview, we will install MASI on each participant’s phone. Participants will be asked to spend at least 10 minutes a day on the app for 1-3 weeks, until the second interview is scheduled. A second interview will allow participants to provide feedback based on their experience with the app, desired improvements, proposed changes to the community guidelines, and information on facilitators and barriers to uptake and daily engagement as well as any technical difficulties encountered, privacy or confidentiality concerns.

Screenshot of MASI home screen with text above it that says A research study by the University of Cape Town, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina

This study is approved the University of Cape Town Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC Ref: 606/2020) and the Duke University Health System Institutional Review Board (Protocol ID: Pro00103309).

Research Team:
Duke University PI:
Marta Mulawa, PhD, MHS
Duke University School of Nursing

University of Cape Town Site PI:
Jacqueline Hoare, MBChB, PhD
University of Cape Town
Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health

University of Cape Town Research Manager:
Bulelwa Mtukushe
University of Cape Town
Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health

University of North Carolina Co-I:
Lisa Hightow-Weidman, MD, MPH
Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases


Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, PrEPresent is a study to develop and pilot test a PrEP activation, navigation and support intervention for Black and Latino young men who have sex with men (BYMSM, L-YMSM) in the Los Angeles metro area. These youth not only have the highest annual incidence of HIV but also are the least likely to have ever used PrEP. There is very clear evidence demonstrating that, while YMSM have high levels of knowledge and intentions to use PrEP, few have used PrEP. Our goal is to address known barriers of engagement along the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and HIV care continua to change that.

PrEP Romania


Study Title: Preparing for pre-exposure prophylaxis implementation in Central-Eastern European Countries with low access to biomedical prevention.
Study Implementers: Columbia University
Study Sponsor(s): Fogarty International Center
Co-Principal Investigators: Dr. Corina Lelutiu-Weinberger (Columbia), Dr. John Pachankis (Yale)
Co-Investigators: Dr. Lisa Hightow-Weidman (UNC)

Description/Purpose: Despite the effectiveness of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in preventing HIV acquisition, PrEP is not currently medically prescribed in Romania, although demand is rapidly growing. Evidence-based knowledge is urgently needed to guide PrEP’s effective rollout in Romania. To address the unmet HIV-prevention needs of Romanian GBM, our established US-Romanian team proposes to introduce a culturally-responsive PrEP program in Romania. We will integrate and adapt two tools that we developed and tested in the US 1) SPARK, an in-person motivational intervention for uptake of and adherence to PrEP using an empowering sexual health approach; and 2) P3 (Prepared, Protected, emPowered), a PrEP adherence support app that utilizes engaging social networking and game-based elements, with an in-app portal for individualized live adherence counseling. We will work with our local Partner Consortium of GBM-competent health providers and GBM to create PrEP Romania, composed of both in-person (adapted SPARK to build initial motivation for PrEP uptake and adherence) and mHealth (adapted P3 to provide ongoing app-based PrEP motivation, education, and adherence support) components. Aim 1 (R21). In mos 2-11, using the ADAPT-ITT Model, we will systematically combine and culturally adapt SPARK and P3. Aim 2 (R21). In mos 12-20, we will enroll 20 GBM in a one-arm pilot to test PrEP Romania’s feasibility (e.g., medical visit attendance), acceptability (e.g., intervention staff protocol feedback, GBM interviews about counseling, app usability, and PrEP use), and PrEP uptake (e.g., filled prescriptions), adherence (i.e., self- reported, biomarker verified) and persistence (i.e., still on PrEP) at 3 mos.

Expanding PrEP in Communities of Color (EPICC+)

EPICC+ seeks to adapt existing evidence-based provider and patient education and support tools and materials (EBT) for use in young men who have sex with men (YMSM) and to train providers in the use of the EBT to facilitate PrEP shared decision making.

This study involves three distinct aims to adapt and test the EBT:
Aim 1: formative assessments with providers and patients to inform adaptation and enhancement of existing patient and provider PrEP EBT by conducting in-depth interviews and design workshops.
Aim 2: training providers on the use of newly developed EBT via virtual training workshops.
Aim 3: hybrid effectiveness – implementation pragmatic clinical trial with 540 YMSM.

To adapt existing EBT and materials in Aims 1 and 2.
Effectiveness objectives: to test the efficacy of the EBT in increase PrEP adherence, retention in PrEP care, PrEP decision-making.
Implementation objectives: provider use of a competence with adapted EBT in clinical practice.

More About EPICC+


More coming soon!


Study Title: PrEP US NoW: PrEP Utilization through Increasing Social Capital Among YBMSM Networks with Women
Principle Investigators: Latesha Elopre (University of Alabama at Birmingham) and Sophia Hussen (Emory University)
Co-Investigators: Dr. Michael Mugavero (UAB), Janet Turan (UAB), Lisa Hightow-Weidman (UNC), John Schneider (University of Chicago), and Dustin Long (UAB)

Description/Purpose: HIV, especially in the South, disproportionately affects young Black men who have sex with men (YBMSM). Development and implementation of effective interventions to scale up HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) are urgently needed in this population. Prior work has focused on individual-level approaches to increasing PrEP utilization, while social network-level approaches are comparatively underutilized. Individuals within social networks have access to social capital, which can yield emotional as well as instrumental resources that influence health behaviors. Black women represent a key source of social capital within YBMSM social networks, and this unique role has not been utilized in prior PrEP interventions. We propose to leverage YBMSM’s supportive connections with Black women to develop PrEP US NoW (PrEP Utilization through increasing Social Capital among YBMSM Networks with Women), a novel mobile health intervention that will engage Black women as facilitators in existing networks of YBMSM, as a way of enhancing social capital, decreasing intersectional stigma, and promoting PrEP uptake within the network. The central feature of the PrEP US NoW intervention will be real-time, virtual discussions led by a trained Black woman facilitator, delivered to an existing network of YBMSM. This study will be conducted in an epicenter of the Southern HIV epidemic: Alabama.


A community engagement platform for sexual and gender minority youth across the United States to support their well-being and resilience.
A collaboration with The University of Pennsylvania and The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

More info coming soon!


More information coming soon!

TRANSforming the Carolinas (TTC)


About the Study

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to develop and pilot a community health worker (CHW) training module designed to address the barriers to HIV prevention and care for transgender people of color (TPOC) living in North Carolina (NC) and South Carolina (SC).

    • Adults who currently or have previously worked as or with a CHW in NC or SC (n = 12)
    • Adults who currently reside in NC and SC willing to receive CHW training with a focus on HIV prevention and care for transgender people of color (n = 10)
    • Transgender adults who identify as racial and/or ethnic minorities (n = 10)

Procedures: We will conduct 12 key informant interviews with current and former CHWs and leaders in organizations willing to hire CHWs, train 10 CHWs to provide health education and linkage to HIV and social services, and pilot test procedures for delivery of the CHW intervention via the stigma-informed digital platform (HealthMpowerment) adapted for this study population. Specific Aims

AIM 1: Develop a CHW training module designed to address HIV prevention and care barriers identified during our formative research. We will create a training manual, resource guide, and related materials tailored for TPOC that can be adapted for use across settings, including rural regions.
AIM 2: Train a cadre of 10 CHWs to provide health education and linkage to services, including PrEP, HIV care, and social services that reduce barriers to care for TPOC in rural and urban areas. We will evaluate the acceptability of the training as well as knowledge and skills gained by trainees.
AIM 3: Pilot test procedures for delivery of the CHW intervention via the stigma-informed digital platform (HealthMpowerment) adapted for this study population. We will assess acceptability and feasibility of the intervention procedures in order to inform a future efficacy trial. This project is a collaboration between researchers at UNC Chapel Hill and community partners at various organizations in North Carolina and South Carolina.

Research Team:
Principal Investigator
Tonia Poteat, PhD, MPH, PA-C
Department of Social Medicine
333 South Columbia St
McNider Hall, Room #345B; Campus Box 7240
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
919-445-6364 (Phone)

Personal Statement of PI: I will supervise all aspects of this research study. I will ensure that this study is performed in compliance with all applicable laws, regulations and University policies regarding human subject’s research. I will obtain IRB approval before making any changes or additions to the project. I will notify the IRB of any other changes in the information provided in this application. I will provide progress reports to the IRB at least annually, or as requested. I will report promptly to the IRB all unanticipated problems or serious adverse events involving risk to human subjects. I will follow the IRB approved protocol.

Lisa Hightow-Weidman, MD, MPH
Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases
130 Mason Farm Road, 2nd Floor CB #7240
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7240
919-843-0033 (Phone)

Project Manager/Study Coordinator
Nastacia Pereira, MPH
Department of Social Medicine
333 South Columbia Rd
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
919-962-1136 (Phone)

Community Partners


Vuka+ is designed to support women by providing health and wellness information, connection to a supportive community of other women, and resources about relationships, wellness, and sexual health.

The Vuka+ app adapts and builds on the HealthMpowerment intervention platform which was created by Lisa Hightow-Weidman, MD, MPH, a public health scientist at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Vuka+ features new health and wellness tools and information developed by a team of young people and health professionals led by CONRAD and supported with funding from The United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Vuka+ users need a code to open the app. To learn more, email us at