October 13, 2010
In the United States and similar countries, men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to be the group at highest risk of HIV/AIDS. "As the Internet becomes popular for seeking sex, online interventions to reduce sexual risk are critical," noted the authors, who undertook the current study to develop and test a highly interactive Internet-based HIV prevention intervention for MSM. A secondary objective was to demonstrate that good retention is possible in online trials.
The study was designed as a randomized controlled trial with three-, six-, nine-, and 12-month follow-up. In the research, which was conducted in 2008, 650 participants were randomized to an online, interactive risk reduction intervention or to a waitlist null control group.
During the 12-month period, retention was 76 percent to 89 percent. Compared to the control group at three-month follow-up, the intervention group showed a 16 percent reduction in reported unprotected anal intercourse (95 percent confidence interval [CI] of rate ratio: 0.70-1.01). No meaningful differences were noted at 12-month follow-up.
"Internet-based, persuasive computing programs hold promise as an effective new approach to HIV prevention for MSM, at least in the short term," the authors concluded. "Further, online trials can be conducted with acceptable retention provided strong retention protocols are employed. Four directions for future research are identified."