Run4Love, a mHealth (WeChat-based) intervention to improve mental health of people living with HIV: A randomized controlled trial protocol

Yan Guo, Y. Alicia Hong, Jiaying Qiao, Zhimeng Xu, Hanxi Zhang, Chengbo Zeng, Weiping Cai, Linghua Li, Cong Liu, Yiran Li, Mengting Zhu, Nathan Asher Harris, Cui Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: People living with HIV (PLWH) suffer from high rates of mental illness; but targeted effective interventions are limited, especially in developing countries. High penetration of smartphone usage and widespread acceptance of social media applications provide an unprecedented opportunity for mobile-based health interventions (mHealth interventions) in resource-limited settings like China. The current report describes the design and sample characteristics of the Run4Love randomized controlled trial (RCT) aimed at improving mental health in PLWH in China. Methods: A total of 300 PLWH with elevated depressive symptoms were recruited and randomized into either the intervention or control group. Participants in the intervention group received an adapted cognitive-behavioral stress management (CBSM) course delivered by the enhanced WeChat platform (for 3 months) and were motivated to engage in physical activities. Progress of the participants was automatically tracked and monitored with timely feedback and rewards. The control group received a brochure on nutrition for PLWH in addition to standard care. The outcome assessments are conducted at baseline, 3, 6, and 9 months using tablets. The primary outcome is depressive symptoms measured by the scale of the Center for Epidemiology Studies Depression (CES-D). Secondary outcomes include quality of life, chronic stress measured with biomarker of hair cortisol, and other measures of stress and depression, self-efficacy, coping, HIV-related stigma, physical activity, and patient satisfaction. Mixed effects model with repeated measures (MMRM) will be used to analyze the intervention effects. Discussion: The Run4Love study is among the first efforts to develop and evaluate a multicomponent and integrated mHealth intervention to improve the mental health and quality of life of PLWH. Once proven effective, Run4Love could be scaled up and potentially integrated into the routine case management of PLWH and adapted to other populations with chronic diseases. Trial registration: Chinese Clinical Trial Registry - ChiCTR-IPR-17012606, registered on 07 September 2017.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number793
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 26 2018


  • Depression
  • Mental health
  • People living with HIV (PLWH)
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • mHealth intervention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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