240559 Lessons learned from implementing and evaluating Internet chat room-based interventions to reduce HIV risk among MSM

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 12:50 PM

Scott Rhodes, PhD, MPH, CHES , Social Sciences and Health Policy, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC
Jason Stowers , Triad Health Project, Greensboro, NC
Cynthia Miller , Division of Public Health Sciences/Department of Social Sciences and Health Policy, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC
Michael Reece, PhD , Dept of Applied Health Science, Indiana University-Bloomington, Bloomington, IN
Amanda E. Tanner, PhD, MPH , Department of Public Health Sciences, University of North Carolina - Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
Addison Ore , Triad Health Project, Greensboro, NC
Issue: The Internet has emerged as a potentially effective tool for HIV prevention outreach. Chat room-based interventions are being implemented by public health departments, clinics, and other community-based organizations. However, there are distinct challenges that must be recognized to ensure the success of the implementation and evaluation of chat room-based interventions.

Description: Our community-based participatory research (CBPR) partnership has been implementing and evaluating Internet chat room-based interventions targeting men who have sex with men (MSM) since 2002. Our NIMH-funded CyBER/testing intervention has been found to increase HIV testing among chatters.

Lessons Learned: Overall, we have discovered that (1) Internet and chat room use change rapidly and seemingly unpredictably over time; (2) distinct practical challenges exist to implementation (e.g., building trust, maintaining chatter interest, lack of nonverbal cues, protecting chatters); (3) chatters have broad and varied prevention needs; (4) online prevention efforts are difficult to evaluate; and (5) there are interventionist characteristics (e.g., being a member of the target community, being creative, juggling multiple chat simultaneously, chatting about non-prevention topics) and intervention approaches that seem key to success.

Recommendations: Because the Internet and chat rooms in particular have been shown to be a potentially successful strategy to reach MSM, research and practice must come together to further understand and overcome challenges associated with the strategy. Furthermore, we should move beyond documenting online behavior and its relationship to risk and determine how to intervene most effectively within various online applications (e.g., chat rooms,).

Learning Areas:
Communication and informatics
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
By the conclusion of the presentation, the participant will be able to: (1) Describe some of the challenges faced when implementing and evaluating Internet chat room-based interventions; (2) Describe the key solutions that have proven successful to overcome these challenges and ensured acceptability and success of chat room interventions; and (3) Apply findings to future research and intervention development, implementation, and evaluation to reduce sexual risk among MSM.

Keywords: Technology, Gay Men

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: PhD-trained researcher with NIH funding.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.