Background: Crowdsourcing is increasingly used to improve community engagement in HIV and sexual health research. In this scoping review, we reviewed studies using crowdsourcing approaches in HIV and sexual health research to identify strengths, opportunities for expansion, and limitations of such approaches.
Methods: We searched CINAHL, Web of Science, Embase, and PubMed. Studies were included if they involved crowdsourcing activities, were in the field of HIV or sexual health, and described the methodology in sufficient detail. We conducted a qualitative synthesis of eligible articles.
Results: Our search strategy yielded 431 nonduplicate articles. After screening, 16 articles met the inclusion criteria, including 4 publications that described research from high-income countries, 7 from middle-income countries, 1 from a low-income country, and 4 that had a global focus. There were 4 categories of crowdsourcing: open contests, hackathons, open forums, and incident reporting systems. We identified common phases for data acquisition and dissemination: (1) preparation; (2) problem framing and crowd solicitation; (3) judging submissions; and (4) sharing selected submissions. Strengths of using crowdsourcing approaches include greater innovation due to crowd heterogeneity, encouragement of multisectoral collaboration, empowerment of vulnerable populations, cost-effectiveness, and relevance to local cultures and styles. Weaknesses among some methods include reliance on the internet, temporal transience, and difficulty in sustaining long-term community engagement.
Conclusions: Crowdsourcing may be useful for HIV implementation research. Further research on crowdsourcing related to HIV and sexual health is needed.