The purpose of this study is to determine whether immersive virtual reality technology is an
effective intervention tool for HIV Prevention with adolescents.
The project will examine the use of immersive virtual reality technology as an intervention
tool for HIV Prevention with adolescents. Adolescents are at risk for contracting HIV while
affect dysregulation is common among adolescents. Research has demonstrated connections
between poor affect management abilities and risky sexual behavior among adolescents. This
research suggests that the ability to regulate one's emotions is key to avoiding risk
behaviors and that adolescents are at greater risk for poor affect management skills.
Fortunately, these skills can be taught via teaching and modeling, making them an excellent
target for intervention, which has previously been approached through role-playing.
Immersive virtual reality offers many advantages over group based role-plays, used in HIV
prevention interventions for adolescents, in its ability to simulate real-world environments
and enhance the impact of HIV prevention interventions. Immersive virtual reality is a
promising technology for giving teens the opportunity to experientially practice using
effective affect regulation skills in a highly realistic, context specific virtual
environment. Additional benefits of this technology will likely be increased engagement and
retention in HIV prevention interventions among young adolescents. The overall aims of Phase
I and Phase II of this project are to develop, refine, and evaluate virtual reality
environments for adolescents targeting affect management. In Phase I, the research team
developed and refined an immersive virtual environment that elicited affect in a high-risk
situation. The final immersive virtual reality environments (completed in Phase II) can be
used by health promotion interventionists in conjunction with an HIV prevention intervention
manual as a means to elicit affect and provide adolescents with a "real world" environment
in which to practice emotion regulation skills related to substance use and HIV prevention.
These aims will be achieved through the collaboration of researchers at Rhode Island
Hospital/Brown and Virtually Better, Inc. a small business that specializes in creating
immersive virtual reality environments for treatment, education, and training purposes. This
tool will represent a significant advance in the way in which affect regulation skills are
practiced and honed, currently achieved via role plays or imaginal exposure, by increasing
the salience of cues used to elicit affect, thus making it highly marketable to
interventionists, schools, and mental health clinicians.
- 7th & 8th graders at participating public schools.
- Adolescent is illiterate.
- Adolescent has parent/guardian who does not speak English.
- Adolescents has high risk of motion sickness.
- For Phase II only, previous participation in Project Trac or Phase I.