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“There’s an app for that” — A novel tool to help community correction populations learn strategies to decrease HIV risk behaviors after release

During the first 5 years of the Disease Risk Reduction Project, an in-prison intervention curriculum was developed and tested that focused on decreasing risky sexual and drug use behaviors after release. The WaySafe intervention curriculum was delivered during the 2 months prior to release from incarceration. Compared to the control group, those in WaySafe showed greater gains on all composite measures (e.g., HIV knowledge confidence, avoidance of risky sex, avoidance of risky drug use, HIV testing awareness, and risk reduction skills. In addition, WaySafe was followed by a take-home workbook to be completed post-release. The goal of the take-home assignment was to reinforce skills and strategies learned through WaySafe during the offenders’ transition back into the community.

With lessons learned from the take-home assignment, as an important next step, the current project is focusing on adapting and delivering the intervention curriculum in community correction populations. Because computerized interventions have demonstrated promising results with substance abuse treatment [1], the new StaySafe intervention is formatted as an engaging computer-driven program. Computer applications in these treatment setting studies were found to be similarly or more efficacious than traditional counselor-led treatment sessions [1]. These findings suggest adoption of new technologies to deliver treatment. StaySafe will incorporate the same evidence-based cognitive principles as WaySafe in 12 self-paced modules that can be self-administered during the first 6 months under community supervision. This presentation will provide an overview of the computerized StaySafe approach and discuss the technological development of StaySafe elements. We will demonstrate the use of computerized, interactive, cognitive mapping strategies for presentation of ideas within the program as well as strategies for eliciting participant input and responses, including strengths and weaknesses of different response strategies (e.g., recording audio responses, using a keyboard or touchscreen to type responses, writing responses on the touchscreen, or choosing a response from a predetermined, pull-down list). Examples of several StaySafe computerized elements will be demonstrated.

Trial registration NCT01900210


  1. Bickel WK, Christensen DR, Marsch LA: A review of computer-based interventions used in the assessment, treatment, and research of drug addiction. Subst Use Misuse. 2011, 46 (1): 4-9. 10.3109/10826084.2011.521066.

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Funding for this study was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health (NIDA/NIH) through a grant to Texas Christian University (R01DA025885; Wayne E.K. Lehman, Principal Investigator). Interpretations and conclusions in this paper are entirely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of NIDA/NIH or the Department of Health and Human Services.

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Correspondence to Julie Gray.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Gray, J., Pankow, J., Lehman, W.E. et al. “There’s an app for that” — A novel tool to help community correction populations learn strategies to decrease HIV risk behaviors after release. Addict Sci Clin Pract 10 (Suppl 1), A15 (2015).

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