Challenges to providing HIV risk and prevention information online to gay, bisexual and other MSM: Findings from an environmental scan of Canadian Agency Websites in Canada

Mark Gilbert, Joshun Dulai, Daniel Wexel, Susan Martin, Ingrid Young, James Wilton, Len Tooley, Lorie Donelle, Warren Michelow, Trevor Hart, Paul Flowers, Olivier Ferlatte

24th Annual Canadian Conference on HIV/AIDS Research, Toronto, Ontario. April 30-May 3, 2015.


Objectives: Health agency websites are a central hub for providing and accessing HIV information. We aimed to scope information provided about HIV risk and prevention on Canadian agency websites relevant to MSM.  Our scan examined topics covered, how information was displayed, and the reading grade level of online information.

Methods: Eligible sites provided information relevant for MSM on HIV risk or prevention, were from community or government agencies, and for the public. Sites were found by google search using French and English search terms, expert suggestion, and review of links.  Eligibility and content for review was determined by two independent reviewers, with data collected by a single reviewer using a standardized form and entered into EpiData (final results based on dual review will be presented).  Reading grade level and usability scores were assessed through Flesch-Kincaid and LIDO instruments, respectively, Analyses were conducted in SPSS.

Results: Of 49 eligible sites 25% were campaigns, 21% and 78% were community or government agencies respectively, 26% were focused on MSM, 19% were French/bilingual.  49 sites included on average 7.9 of 20 topics on HIV risk, with sero-sorting (22%), viral load (15%) and acute HIV (15%) being least frequent.  46 sites included an average on average 6.4 of 24 topics on HIV prevention, with treatment as prevention (13%) and PrEP (9%) being least frequent.  Almost all sites presented information by text, with a median reading grade level of 10.  Less common were use of tables, images, or graphs to present information; only 4% used interactive or tailored features.  On usability scoring, sites scored lower on functionality and engagement domains.

Discussion: Overall we observed less information about emerging topics and a reliance on text with high reading requirements.  Updating content, communicating information effectively, and engaging audiences appeared common challenges for assessed websites.