The findings and conclusions in these presentations have not been formally disseminated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and should not be construed to represent any agency determination or policy.

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Internet-based STD prevention campaign evaluation: Lessons learned

Lisa Gilbert, Rachele Peterson, and Kelli Scanlon. American Social Health Association, PO Box 13827, Research Triangle Park, NC, USA

Men who have sex with men (MSM) are at increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases, including hepatitis A and B. Despite availability of vaccines and public health recommendations, coverage levels remain inadequate.
Although the Internet has facilitated encounters resulting in increased risk of STD transmission, most MSM look favorably upon online health promotional activities and many seek sexual health information online. The Internet is increasingly recommended as a medium to develop and evaluate STD prevention interventions for this population.

As part of a five-year cooperative agreement to increase hepatitis A and B vaccination intentions, MSM were recruited via the Internet to measure perceptions of three hepatitis prevention campaigns.

MSM were initially recruited to participate in virtual (online) focus groups. Scheduling and conducting virtual focus groups was not successful. The methodology was changed to collect data via electronic surveys. Internet-based convenience and snowball sampling techniques were used to collect both qualitative and quantitative data from MSM.

Over 100 MSM expressed interest, and 41 MSM returned campaign evaluations offering in-depth opinions about each campaign for a final response rate of 38%. Participants provided overwhelming and unsolicited positive feedback. Web-based incentives were sufficiently easy to distribute to respondents in return for participation.

While virtual focus groups have worked with other populations, they were not feasible in this context. However, the electronic survey methodology was effective for collecting data from MSM. One drawback is that it prevented interaction and further probing of opinions, unlike virtual focus groups, which allow for such exchanges.

Web-based evaluations using electronic survey methodology can provide in-depth feedback. These findings are essential to understanding the complexities of using the Internet for STD prevention intervention evaluations, specifically among MSM. Findings should be incorporated into future Web-based efforts to create and evaluate STD prevention interventions aimed at increasing knowledge, awareness, and intentions.