mHealth to reduce HIV-related stigma among youth in the United States: a scoping review

Mhealth. 2021 Apr 20:7:35. doi: 10.21037/mhealth-20-68. eCollection 2021.


Multiple intersecting stigmas and discrimination related to sex, gender, HIV, and race/ethnicity may challenge HIV prevention and treatment service utilization, particularly among youth. This scoping review describes recent and ongoing innovative mobile health (mHealth) interventions among youth in the United States that aim to reduce stigma as an outcome or as part of the intervention model. To identify examples of stigma-mitigation via mHealth, we searched peer-reviewed published literature using keyword strategies related to mHealth, HIV, stigma, and youth (ages 10 to 29). We identified eleven articles that met our inclusion criteria, including three describing data from two randomized controlled trials (RCTs), five describing pilot studies, one describing the process evaluation of an ongoing intervention, one describing formative work for intervention development, and one published study protocol for an ongoing intervention. We review these articles, grouped by HIV prevention and care continuum stages, and describe the mHealth approach used, including telehealth, simulation video games, motion comics, smartphone applications (apps), social media forums, online video campaigns, video vignettes, and a computerized behavioral learning module. Four studies focused on preventing primary acquisition through individual-level behavior change (e.g., reducing condomless anal intercourse), three focused on increasing HIV testing, three focused on linking to prevention services [e.g., pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)] and one focused on promoting adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART). Our review did not identify any published studies using mHealth with a primary aim to reduce stigma as a way to improve care engagement and increase viral suppression among youth in the United States. Additional RCTs and implementation studies examining the effectiveness of mHealth stigma-reduction interventions on HIV-related outcomes are needed to end the HIV epidemic among youth. mHealth offers unique advantages to address the complex intersecting stigma barriers along the HIV continuum to improve HIV-related outcomes for youth.

Keywords: HIV; mHealth; stigma; technology; youth.

Publication types

  • Review