Background: HIV testing for marginalized populations is critical to controlling the HIV epidemic. However, the HIV testing rate among men who have sex with men (MSM) in China remains low. Crowdsourcing, the process of shifting individual tasks to a group, has been increasingly adopted in public health programs and may be a useful tool for spurring innovation in HIV testing campaigns. We designed a multi-site study to develop a crowdsourced HIV test promotion campaign and evaluate its effectiveness against conventional campaigns among MSM in China.
Methods: This study will use an adaptation of the stepped wedge, randomized controlled trial design. A total of eight major metropolitan cities in China will be randomized to sequentially initiate interventions at 3-month intervals. The intervention uses crowdsourcing at multiple steps to sustain crowd contribution. Approximately 1280 MSM, who are 16 years of age or over, live in the intervention city, have not been tested for HIV in the past 3 months, and are not living with HIV, will be recruited. Recruitment will take place through banner advertisements on a large gay dating app along with other social media platforms. Participants will complete one follow-up survey every 3 months for 12 months to evaluate their HIV testing uptake in the past 3 months and secondary outcomes including syphilis testing, sex without condoms, community engagement, testing stigma, and other related outcomes.
Discussion: MSM HIV testing rates remain poor in China. Innovative methods to promote HIV testing are urgently needed. With a large-scale, stepped wedge, randomized controlled trial our study can improve understanding of crowdsourcing's long-term effectiveness in public health campaigns, expand HIV testing coverage among a key population, and inform intervention design in related public health fields.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02796963 . Registered on 23 May 2016.
Keywords: China; Crowdsourcing; HIV; HIV testing; Men who have sex with men (MSM); stepped wedge randomized controlled trial.