Internet based HIV prevention research targeting rural MSM: feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy
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- Bowen, A.M., Williams, M.L., Daniel, C.M. et al. J Behav Med (2008) 31: 463. doi:10.1007/s10865-008-9171-6
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Internet delivered primary prevention interventions for HIV risk reduction present significant challenges. Changing lifestyle behaviors, such as beginning to use condoms, is difficult and men seeking dates on line may want to avoid thinking about HIV risk which may lead to low initiation and high dropout rates. Many Internet delivered HIV risk reduction programs have mimicked face-to-face outreach programs, failing to take advantage of the Internet’s capabilities or did not conduct evaluation. This study focuses on examining the feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy of an Internet delivered HIV risk reduction program for rural men who have sex with men (MSM). The program included online recruiting, three intervention modules, each with two sessions, online questionnaires. The intervention was developed based on iterative research and the Information-Motivation-Behavioral skills model. Participants (N = 475) were randomly assigned to one of six module orders and data were collected automatically at pre-test and after each module. Data supports the feasibility and acceptability of the program as demonstrated by good retention and rapid program completion. Knowledge, self-efficacy, outcome expectancies and motivation increase in a dose response fashion. Post-intervention behavior changes included reduced anal sex and significant increases in condom use. Limitations include a short follow-up period, a predominantly young white rural sample, and the lack of an attention control. Overall the results of the study provide support for the efficacy of Internet-based interventions to reduce risk of HIV infection. Results also support traditional research methods to evaluate HIV prevention programs delivered exclusively through the Internet.