Toronto Metropolitan University

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Provision of online HIV-related information to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men: a health literacy-informed critical appraisal of Canadian agency websites

journal contribution
posted on 2024-04-04, 20:24 authored by Mark Gilbert, Warren Michelow, Joshun Dulai, Daniel Wexel, Trevor HartTrevor Hart, Ingrid Young, Susan Martin, Paul Flowers, Lorie Donelle, Olivier Ferlatte

Background: HIV risk and prevention information is increasingly complex and poses challenges for gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) seeking to find, understand and apply this information. A directed content analysis of Canadian HIV websites to see what information is provided, how it is presented and experienced by users, was conducted.

Methods: Eligible sites provided information relevant for GBMSM on HIV risk or prevention, were from community or government agencies, and were aimed at the public. Sites were found by using a Google search using French and English search terms, from expert suggestions and a review of links. Eligibility and content for review was determined by two reviewers, and coded using a standardised form. Reading grade level and usability scores were assessed through Flesch-Kincaid and LIDA instruments.

Results: Of 50 eligible sites, 78% were from community agencies and 26% were focussed on GBMSM. Overall, fewer websites contained information on more recent biomedical advances (e.g. pre-exposure prophylaxis, 10%) or community-based prevention strategies (e.g. seroadaptive positioning, 10%). Many sites had high reading levels, used technical language and relied on text and prose. And 44% of websites had no interactive features and most had poor usability scores for engageability.

Conclusions: Overall, less information about emerging topics and a reliance on text with high reading requirements was observed. Our study speaks to potential challenges for agency website operators to maintain information relevant to GBMSM which is up-to-date, understandable for a range of health literacy skills and optimises user experience.