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AIDS Research and Treatment
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 594671, 10 pages
Research Article

The Exposure Assessment in Current Time Study: Implementation, Feasibility, and Acceptability of Real-Time Data Collection in a Community Cohort of Illicit Drug Users

1Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
2Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
3Department of Medicine and Population Health, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53792, USA

Received 5 August 2013; Accepted 27 August 2013

Academic Editor: Seth Himelhoch

Copyright © 2013 Gregory D. Kirk et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Objective. We describe the study design and evaluate the implementation, feasibility, and acceptability of an ecological momentary assessment (EMA) study of illicit drug users. Design. Four sequential field trials targeting observation of 30 individuals followed for a four week period. Participants. Participants were recruited from an ongoing community-cohort of current or former injection drug users. Of 113 individuals enrolled, 109 completed study procedures during four trials conducted from November 2008 to May 2013. Methods. Hand-held electronic diaries used in the initial trials were transitioned to a smartphone platform for the final trial with identical data collection. Random-prompts delivered five times daily assessed participant location, activity, mood, and social context. Event-contingent data collection involved participant self-reports of illicit drug use and craving. Main Outcome Measures. Feasibility measures included participant retention, days of followup, random-prompt response rates, and device loss rate. Acceptability was evaluated from an end-of-trial questionnaire. Sociodemographic, behavioral, clinical, and trial characteristics were evaluated as correlates of weekly random-prompt response rates ≥80% using logistic regression with generalized estimating equations. Results. Study participants were a median of 48.5 years old, 90% African American, 52% male, and 59% HIV-infected with limited income and educational attainment. During a median followup of 28 days, 78% of 11,181 random-prompts delivered were answered (mean of 2.8 responses daily), while 2,798 participant-initiated events were reported (30% drug use events; 70% craving events). Self-reported acceptability to study procedures was uniformly favorable. Device loss was rare (only 1 lost device every 190 person-days of observation). Higher educational attainment was consistently associated with a higher response rate to random-prompts, while an association of HIV infection with lower response rates was not observed after accounting for differences in trial recruitment procedures. Conclusion. Near real-time EMA data collection in the field is feasible and acceptable among community-dwelling illicit drug users. These data provide the basis for future studies of EMA-informed interventions to prevent drug relapse and improve HIV treatment outcomes in this population.