Mobile apps for HIV prevention: how do they contribute to our epidemic response for adolescents and young adults?

Mhealth. 2021 Apr 20;7:36. doi: 10.21037/mhealth-20-71. eCollection 2021.


Mobile health (mHealth) tools to address the HIV epidemic have proliferated in recent years. Yet when applied to the United States (US) epidemic, which is driven by new HIV infections among men who have sex with men (MSM), it is not clear how mHealth tools fit in the overall portfolio of biobehavioral prevention interventions and clinical services proven to be efficacious. Adolescent and young adult MSM are particularly vulnerable and reducing HIV incidence among this priority population will require substantial levels of uptake of multiple prevention strategies (i.e., HIV testing, condom use, sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and treatment for those with HIV infection). Starting from the premise that adolescents are avid consumers of technology, this paper considers the particular strengths and opportunities of mHealth tools to address HIV prevention and provides examples of mHealth approaches that have been tested or are in development in these areas. Even after mHealth interventions are proven effective, there will be important intervening steps before such tools can be deployed and integrated into existing prevention programs given the diverse landscape of prevention service delivery. We anticipate some of the likely barriers to broad implementation of proven mHealth interventions in the context of the US public health funding and service delivery infrastructure and provide recommendations to increase efforts for future scale-up and dissemination.

Keywords: HIV prevention; mHealth tools; pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP); public health services.

Publication types

  • Review