Study: New Mobile Intervention Application May Reduce HIV Risk Among Same-Sex Attracted Young Males

Research suggests that HIV risk-reduction interventions could help adolescent males who are attracted to the same sex—and part of a minority ethnic and racial group—decrease HIV-risk sexual behaviors in the short-term.

The MyPEEPS Mobile app reduced the short-term risk of contracting HIV among young, racially, and ethnically diverse men who have sex with other men (MSM). The MyPEEPS intervention was found to decrease condomless sex acts by 44% at 3 months among a population in which 52% of participants have had anal sex and 78% have had condomless sex.

The primary outcome was a change in the number of condomless sex acts. Researchers identified secondary outcomes as changes in the number of sex partners, condomless anal sex partners, sex acts while under the influence of substances, preexposure prophylactic uptake, nonoccupational postexposure prophylaxis use, and HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing.

The MSM population accounts for nearly 70% of annual HIV infections, but within this community, racial and ethnic minorities have higher rates of HIV infection. Young MSM in these diverse communities have even higher rates. For example, Black MSM 13 to 24 years of age accounted for 27% of new HIV cases in the United States.

MyPEEPs was a group-based HIV prevention curriculum to teach prevention to young diverse MSM aged 16-20 years. The researchers developed it into a mobile app, MyPEEPS Mobile, that targeted an even younger (aged 13 to 18 years) and more diverse demographic (American Indian, Alaskan Native, etc.) population. The team decided to evaluate the efficacy of MyPEEPs Mobile—specifically whether it reduced condomless anal sex acts among same-sex attracted young MSM.

Researchers enrolled 763 young racially and ethnically diverse same sex attracted adolescent males in a randomized clinical trial (RCT). They were tasked with completing an assessment every 3 months for 9 months, and were divided into 2 groups—382 patients were in the intervention group and had access to MYPEEPS Mobile for the first 3 months— 381 were in the delayed intervention group, in which they got access to MyPEEPS Mobile at the 9-month visit.

“Participants randomized to the MyPEEPS Mobile intervention group had a significant reduction in condomless anal sex acts compared with the delayed intervention arm at 3 months,” the researchers wrote in the report. However, between baseline and 6 months or 9 months, there was not a significant difference between either group.

Researchers also found that Black or African American participants in the intervention group showed the most significant effects after using the app—results showed that they had an 85% drop in condomless anal sex acts at 6 months.

The findings cannot be generalized to people without smart devices or social media platforms. The study was limited because results were self-reported and may have intrinsic selective and social biases, according to the authors. Finally, the study did not look at incidence of HIV, nor the participants’ behavior after taking the course.

“Our findings provide evidence that MyPEEPS Mobile is a feasible, acceptable, and efficacious intervention that reduces HIV risk behavior among MSM aged 13 through 18 years,” the study authors said in the report.

Reference

Schall, Rebecca, Kuhns, Lisa, Pearson, Cynthia, et al. Efficacy of MyPEEPS Mobile, an HIV Prevention Intervention Using Mobile Technology, on Reducing Sexual Risk Among Same-Sex Attracted Adolescent Males. September 21, 2022. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(9):e2231853. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.31853