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Welcome to the BATLab’s Weekly Lit Review, where every week we post peer-reviewed papers relevant to our research projects.

This week, take a look at this interesting paper published in JMIR in 2015:

Key words: HIVAIDSMSMmobile apppreventioncommunity


Background: Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) account for a disproportionate burden of new HIV infections in the United States. Mobile technology presents an opportunity for innovative interventions for HIV prevention. Some HIV prevention apps currently exist; however, it is challenging to encourage users to download these apps and use them regularly. An iterative research process that centers on the community’s needs and preferences may increase the uptake, adherence, and ultimate effectiveness of mobile apps for HIV prevention.

Objective: The aim of this paper is to provide a case study to illustrate how an iterative community approach to a mobile HIV prevention app can lead to changes in app content to appropriately address the needs and the desires of the target community.

Methods: In this three-phase study, we conducted focus group discussions (FGDs) with MSM and HIV testing counselors in Atlanta, Seattle, and US rural regions to learn preferences for building a mobile HIV prevention app. We used data from these groups to build a beta version of the app and theater tested it in additional FGDs. A thematic data analysis examined how this approach addressed preferences and concerns expressed by the participants.

Results: There was an increased willingness to use the app during theater testing than during the first phase of FGDs. Many concerns that were identified in phase one (eg, disagreements about reminders for HIV testing, concerns about app privacy) were considered in building the beta version. Participants perceived these features as strengths during theater testing. However, some disagreements were still present, especially regarding the tone and language of the app.

Conclusions: These findings highlight the benefits of using an interactive and community-driven process to collect data on app preferences when building a mobile HIV prevention app. Through this process, we learned how to be inclusive of the larger MSM population without marginalizing some app users. Though some issues in phase one were able to be addressed, disagreements still occurred in theater testing. If the app is going to address a large and diverse risk group, we cannot include niche functionality that may offend some of the target population.

This article was written by Tamar Goldenberg1, MPH Sarah J McDougal2, MPH Patrick S Sullivan3, DVM, PhD Joanne D Stekler2, PhD Rob Stephenson1, PhD 

Contributors are from:

1School of Nursing, Department of Health Behavior and Biological Sciences and the Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, United States

2Department of Medicine, Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, United States

3Rollins School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, United States

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