Background In preparation for a prospective network study of men who have sex with men (MSM), we conducted a mixed-methods pilot study to examine feasibility and acceptability of several study components, including recruitment, data collection, and compensation.
Methods We conducted in-depth interviews (IDIs) with eight providers serving MSM and five focus group discussions (FGDs) with 34 MSM from four target MSM populations: young Black men, HIV-positive men, HIV-negative men on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and men not engaged in medical care. We also conducted a 4-week pilot of a smartphone app for ecological momentary assessment (EMA) with 20 MSM (ongoing). EMA surveys were employed to capture daily data on anal and oral sex, consumption of alcohol and drugs, use of hook-up and social networking apps, and other behaviors. We used a brief exit survey to assess EMA app acceptability.
Results A major theme identified during IDIs and FGDs was the importance of developing trust and maintaining confidentiality during proposed respondent driven sampling (RDS) recruitment activities. A second FGD theme emphasized the importance of compensating participants appropriately for RDS and other study activities. All EMA participants reported being “completely comfortable” reporting their sexual behavior through the app. Most (67%) preferred the app to in-person interviews. Several participants identified technical issues with the app, including not receiving push notifications and spontaneous app closure.
Conclusion IDIs and FGDs confirmed that developing trust and protecting participant confidentiality are critical for successful RDS recruitment. FGDs showed that MSM value their contributions to research and desire commensurate compensation. The EMA app was acceptable, despite technological challenges. It is feasible to use EMA to capture sexual behavior in this population. This mixed-methods pilot allowed for adjustments to the planned network study, including changes in compensation type and amount, troubleshooting technical issues, and modifications to the EMA survey.
Disclosure No significant relationships.
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