Research Spotlight - Fall 2012 Archive

Fall 2012 Research Spotlight

Nurse Researcher uses Mobile Cell Phones to Improve the Sexual Health of African Americans 

Dr. Cornelius has been interested in HIV research for more than two decades. She began her journey with this area of research in the late 1980s. As a registered nurse, she saw many patients live and die with HIV infection disease. As a result of the personal stories that patients shared with her about how they were treated (with disdain) by health professionals, she vowed then to launch a research plan with the goal to change attitudes and behaviors of her colleagues and students. Her development of a focused research plan helped her to realize that she needed additional education and training to address this important work. Therefore, in 2000 she enrolled into a PhD in Nursing program at Rush Medical Center/Rush University in Chicago, Illinois. Her dissertation research examined “the effectiveness of an experiential learning method on baccalaureate nursing students' knowledge, attitudes, willingness, and perceived preparedness to provide care to HIV seropositive individuals.” After completing her doctoral studies, she pursued a Post Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. At the University of Penn, she studied two years with Dr. Loretta Jemmott, a renowned HIV prevention nurse researcher and scholar. It was at this time, that she began to listen more to the voices of African American parents, grandparents, adolescent children and grandchildren. The stories were the same, “We need help to teach our children how to protect themselves from becoming infected with the virus that causes AIDS.”

Mobile Cell Phone Text Messaging Project

Dr. Cornelius’ NINR, R-21study, funded in the amount of $396,000 in 2008, focused on using mobile cell phone text messages to deliver safer sex information to adolescents.  Using focus groups’ methodology, Dr. Cornelius found that African American adolescents, (13 to 18 years of age) were not only receptive to the idea of using text messaging to receive safer sex information but they also wanted to receive 1 to 3messages per day during the hours of 4-6pm.  Because of these ground-breaking findings from this research, the idea was recognized by Dr. Pat Grady at NINR and was cited in an ABC news release as a “cutting edge project with African American youth.”

BART Text Messaging Project

In 2010, Dr. Cornelius developed a second study titled, Becoming a Responsible Teen (BART) Text Messaging Project.  This project involved development of a website, recruitment of  a Teen Advisory Committee, and conduction of  a pilot feasibility study with 40 adolescents. The project also involved enhancing the Becoming a Responsible Teen (BART) HIV prevention curriculum with text messaging boosters. The results of that study are encouraging. The project website ( was viewed by unique visitors in over 61 different countries. Participants in the BART Text Messaging project responded 100% of the time on 20 days, 91-99% on 46 days, 81-90% on 18 days and equal to and less than 80% on 7 of the 91 days.  Participants wrote positive comments about the text messaging process. One wrote, “I love this program and hope that it can continue. We need to continue educating youth about HIV. I hope that I can be a teacher on the advisory board next time."  Another wrote, “I really did enjoy this program and if another program came around like this one, I would really love to be a part of it because I learned a lot. I've learned that it is okay to be around somebody with AIDS.” One teen wrote, “Good job with the text messages and the project.  Keep up the good work.”

Trends were seen toward less reported unprotected sexual intercourse experiences (vaginal, oral and/or rectal) over time.  At baseline, incidents of unprotected sexual intercourse were reported 31 times; immediately posttest was reported 19 times and at the 3-month follow up, was reported 9 times.   The results of this study have provided data for a randomized controlled trial, which Dr. Cornelius is currently seeking funding.

Dr. Cornelius’s BART Text Messaging project is being replicated by the Knox County Health Department, in Knoxville, Tennessee. The goal of this project is to reach 400 participants with safer sex information during the first year of funding. To date, the results of the project are promising.

Safer Sex App for African American Women

Dr. Cornelius is continuing to explore the receptivity of African Americans to mobile cell phone applications. She recently received funding from the School of Nursing Directors award to conduct a pilot study to examine the receptivity of African American women to a safer sex application. Preliminary data indicate that African American women could benefit from a safer sex application (app) to improve their sexual health. She also hopes to expand her research to transgender women and families.

In summary, Dr. Cornelius has shown impressive scientific leadership, creativity and productivity in her research on reducing the risk of HIV infection among African Americans adolescents. She has published her work in distinguished journals such as Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing, and Journal of Cultural Diversity.   Her research that focuses on “the integration of mobile cell phone technology to deliver safer sex messages about HIV prevention to African American at risk women and adolescents” is cutting-edge and contributes to positive health outcomes for African American youth.