Clinical Trial of an AI-Augmented Intervention for HIV Prevention in Youth Experiencing Homelessness


  • Bryan Wilder Harvard University
  • Laura Onasch-Vera University of Southern California
  • Graham Diguiseppi University of Southern California
  • Robin Petering Lens Co
  • Chyna Hill University of Southern California
  • Amulya Yadav Pennsylvania State University
  • Eric Rice University of Southern California
  • Milind Tambe Harvard University



Networks and Social Networks


Youth experiencing homelessness (YEH) are subject to substantially greater risk of HIV infection, compounded both by their lack of access to stable housing and the disproportionate representation of youth of marginalized racial, ethnic, and gender identity groups among YEH. A key goal for health equity is to improve adoption of protective behaviors in this population. One promising strategy for intervention is to recruit peer leaders from the population of YEH to promote behaviors such as condom usage and regular HIV testing to their social contacts. This raises a computational question: which youth should be selected as peer leaders to maximize the overall impact of the intervention? We developed an artificial intelligence system to optimize such social network interventions in a community health setting. We conducted a clinical trial enrolling 713 YEH at drop-in centers in a large US city. The clinical trial compared interventions planned with the algorithm to those where the highest-degree nodes in the youths' social network were recruited as peer leaders (the standard method in public health) and to an observation-only control group. Results from the clinical trial show that youth in the AI group experience statistically significant reductions in key risk behaviors for HIV transmission, while those in the other groups do not. This provides, to our knowledge, the first empirical validation of the usage of AI methods to optimize social network interventions for health. We conclude by discussing lessons learned over the course of the project which may inform future attempts to use AI in community-level interventions.




How to Cite

Wilder, B., Onasch-Vera, L., Diguiseppi, G., Petering, R., Hill, C., Yadav, A., Rice, E., & Tambe, M. (2021). Clinical Trial of an AI-Augmented Intervention for HIV Prevention in Youth Experiencing Homelessness. Proceedings of the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, 35(17), 14948-14956.



AAAI Special Track on AI for Social Impact