Internet-based HIV Prevention for Indian Men Internet use in India is in a period of rapid expansion and holds enormous potential for reaching stigmatized men at high risk of HIV infection with effective prevention education. To date, Internet-based HIV-prevention research and interventions have not been studied, a gap we propose to begin addressing with this application. This bilateral collaborative study between a Minnesota-based team of HIV-prevention Internet researchers and a California and India-based team experienced with HIV prevention targeting high-risk men in Mumbai builds upon the unique expertise of both teams. There are four aims.
The first aim documents how the Internet is used to meet male sex partners and test the feasibility of conducting online focus groups to reach high-risk men (n=64).
The second aim conducts a usability assessment to determine the cultural appropriateness of an evidence-based Internet intervention for high-risk men in Mumbai (n=10).
The third aim conducts a technology and virtual environment assessment (n=10).
The final aim conducts an online behavioral risk and needs assessment (n=600). All procedures mirror work successfully completed by our team in the US, but adapted to research the Indian context and epidemic. Hence this R21 will test methods untried in India. The primary significance of this study includes its potential public health impact in averting HIV infections among high-risk men in India. Even a modestly effective online intervention in India has the potential to reach thousands of men, to reduce risky beliefs and behaviors, and hence, to prevent the spread of HIV.
The proposed project is to collect formative data needed to inform an online intervention targeting Indian MSM. The project employs a mixed-method research design by recruiting MSM living in Mumbai to participate in online focus groups, usability tests of an evidence-based intervention currently in phase 3 testing in the US, and a cross-sectional survey comparing differences in online and offline sexual behavior. The study also collects data from key informants familiar with India's gay online infrastructure. The study is significant to public health because it has the potential to reach thousands of Indian MSM and reduce HIV-infections among them. In addition, the study is methodologically significant because it tests the feasibility of recruiting Indian MSM into an online focus group and survey.