Technology-driven methodologies to collect qualitative data among youth to inform HIV prevention and care interventions

Mhealth. 2021 Apr 20;7:34. doi: 10.21037/mhealth-2020-5. eCollection 2021.


The use of technology as a platform for delivering HIV prevention interventions provides an efficient opportunity to reach those at risk for HIV with targeted and timely prevention and treatment messages. Technology-delivered HIV interventions are becoming increasingly popular and include interventions that use mobile text messaging and mobile phone apps or deliver prevention messages through telehealth platforms. Community-centered approaches of intervention development can help address the potential gap between science and practice by ensuring that interventions are appropriate and driven by community needs and desires. Common approaches to gaining community input rely on qualitative data gathered through in-person focus group discussions (FGD), in-depth interviews (IDI) and youth advisory boards (YABs). While these proven methodologies have strengths, youth engagement can be limited by structural barriers (e.g., lack of transportation, inconvenient timing) and reluctance to participate due to stigma or discomfort with group settings. This results in a number of biases that limit the quality of face-to-face qualitative data collection, i.e., social desirability bias or selection biases created by differential likelihood of recruitment and attendance. As an increasing number of HIV prevention and care interventions are successfully delivered online, innovative approaches to youth engagement in virtual spaces can also be applied across the intervention lifespan to increase the quality and validity of formative data. In this paper, we describe a range of qualitative data collection techniques that can be used via online platforms to collect qualitative data, and we outline their relative advantages over face-to-face FGD or IDI. We use four case studies to highlight the methodologies and findings and provide recommendations for researchers moving forward.

Keywords: HIV prevention; intervention development; mHealth; qualitative research.

Publication types

  • Review