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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Public health efforts have increasingly focused on developing efficacious interventions to curb the spread of HIV among SGMY and help those living with HIV achieve and sustain viral suppression. However, recruiting and engaging SGMY in prevention and care interventions is challenging. During the past decade, gay dating apps have quickly emerged as popular web-based spaces in which SGMY congregate.

Although the recruitment of SGMY through these apps has been commonly reported, advertisement is the typical modality used, and direct recruitment approaches are not adequately described.


This study aims to describe the process for developing a direct recruitment protocol for use in gay dating apps. The Adolescent Medicine Trials Network Comprehensive Adolescent Research and Engagement Studies is a community-based research program consisting of 3 interrelated studies testing scalable behavioral interventions to improve HIV prevention and care engagement among youth aged years in Los Angeles and New Orleans.

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To supplement our in-person recruitment approaches for Comprehensive Adolescent Research and Engagement Studies, the New Orleans site formed a gay dating app recruitment team. In Aprilthe team developed a loosely structured protocol that included study-specific profiles and sample language to guide initial recruitment efforts. For example, we learned the importance of addressing concerns about study legitimacy and identifying appropriate ways to describe the study. We iteratively incorporated these lessons learned into the final protocol and developed a training program and tracking procedures before moving to full-scale implementation at both sites.

Adhering to this protocol yielded enrollments in New Orleans total enrollments across the two sites throughout the recruitment period April to August We outlined step-by-step instructions on training staff, engaging users, and scheduling and tracking recruitment activities.

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This paper provides a practical guide for researchers and community-based providers to implement a gay dating app recruitment protocol. Our experience indicates that gay dating app recruitment is feasible and fruitful when the staff members are knowledgeable, flexible, honest, and respectful to the user. Perhaps the most salient lesson we learned in approaching gay dating app users is the importance of setting clear and transparent intentions without judgment.

As gay dating apps continue to increase in popularity, researchers need to stay vigilant to changing formats and develop systematic approaches to harness their potential as invaluable recruitment strategies for SGMY. In the United States, sexual ie, gay, bisexual, nonheterosexual identity, attraction, and behavior and gender ie, transgender, gender nonbinary, and gender identity incongruent with the sex ased at birth minority youth SGMYparticularly youth of color, continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV.

Although HIV data on gender minority youth are limited, young transgender women have been heavily impacted and have a high HIV prevalence [ 2 ]. It is not surprising that public health efforts have increasingly focused on developing efficacious interventions to curb the spread of HIV among SGMY and help those living with HIV achieve and sustain viral suppression. However, recruiting Sex dating in El prado engaging SGMY in prevention and care interventions has been challenging. It has long been accepted that one of the most effective recruitment approaches is meeting participants where they congregate.

In the late 90s and the early s, community venues such as clubs and bars were fruitful places for recruiting SGMY.

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This era also saw the advent of the internet as an increasingly popular social space, in which a of studies leveraged internet chatrooms to recruit members of sexual minority groups [ 45 ]. The location features of these apps allow users to connect with other users from a broad geographic area and identify those nearby and easily accessible for dates or casual sexual encounters.

By identifying users in close proximity to research staff, the geolocation features of these apps can also be harnessed to facilitate targeted SGMY recruitment efforts. During the past decade, researchers have utilized GSN apps in a variety of ways to recruit sexual and gender minority participants for HIV research.

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Many studies have relied on passive methods, such as advertising banners and popup or posting a study-specific profile with contact information [ 5 - 13 ]. Others have used more active approaches to engaging with GSN users for study recruitment by having research staff create profiles and initiate conversations with users [ 14 - 17 ].

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However, we could not find a single study that adequately described the actual procedures or steps used to recruit participants directly. Given the relative success and increasing utility of GSN recruitment, researchers should provide a clear step-by-step description of their recruitment processes and suggestions for overcoming obstacles inherent in using these apps for recruitment purposes. Although we initially developed the protocol outlined in this manuscript to recruit youth at risk for HIV into ATN in New Orleans, it was later integrated into recruitment efforts in Los Angeles [ 20 ].

Eligible youth had to 1 be between 12 and 24 years of age, 2 test HIV seronegative on a fourth-generation Alere test, and 3 be at risk of acquiring HIV as determined by their responses on a brief behavioral risk factor screener. After providing written informed consent, participants completed a baseline behavioral assessment, were tested for HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and randomized to one of four technology-based interventions of varying intensity.

Participants completed a behavioral assessment and were Sex dating in El prado for HIV and sexually transmitted infections at 4-month intervals for 2 years. For the first year of the study, we used traditional venue-based recruitment directly approaching youth at youth-focused community venues and agencies and popular community events.

Other methods we used included distributing palm cards, posting study flyers at targeted venues, agencies, and events, and obtaining referrals from providers and study participants. These efforts, though successful in identifying a of youth who reported multiple HIV risk behaviors, did not yield sufficient s of SGMY to meet recruitment targets.

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We encouraged referrals by incentivizing SGMY participants for each successfully enrolled referral from within their networks. Cognizant that these approaches were only reaching youth willing to engage in community events and frequent popular venues, we decided to recruit SGMY through social networking sites, particularly gay dating apps.

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In Aprilwe formed a social media recruitment team in New Orleans comprising the project director, a Latinx gay cisgender male, and 2 self-identified Black, gay cisgender male field recruiters. The team developed a loosely structured protocol that included study-specific profiles and sample language to guide the initial recruitment efforts and met weekly to discuss experiences and iteratively modify the protocol as needed.

To determine the most productive recruitment periods, the team developed weekly schedules that varied by time of day and day of the week and monitored the yield. We tried recruiting Adam4Adam but were immediately blocked from using the app. Recruiters created their own study-specific profiles for use in apps. The characteristics of each profile reflected those common among app users. For example, we described ourselves as 20 or 21 years old; Black or African American man; versatile; and looking for friendsnetworkingfun, and other descriptors found in user profiles.

Sample photos are illustrated in Figure 1. One profile used a bitmoji character superimposed on a photo of a field recruiter. This character, called Nolanbecame our unofficial mascot that was created in response to the popularity of bitmojis. The other profile used a stock photo of a cisgender male who was described as attractive by the team.

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We provided recruiters with scripted language to assist in initiating and maintaining conversations with users. Recruiters were encouraged to adapt the language as needed and share adaptations during our weekly meetings.

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Recruiters also kept ongoing records of the adaptations and user responses that we used to iteratively modify the suggested language, as shown in Textbox 1. We offer services to improve the sexual health of young guys under I work for a health program at [BLANK] that is trying to help young guys under 24 to improve their sexual health. Your participation could be really helpful in finding ways to improve the health of our community.

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You also learn about how to have fun, safe sex. You get paid every time you come in.

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We also offer free testing for HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia. I understand this app is used to hook up, which is OK. My goal is to connect you to information on our study and how to be involved. Have you read my bio?

Engaging sexual and gender minority youth in hiv interventions through gay dating apps: recruitment protocol

Is that something you would be interested in learning about? In this section, we summarize the main challenges faced during the initial field test. When approached, some users said that they had ly been contacted by our recruiters, leading some to discontinue the conversations abruptly. Other users blocked our profiles because they had already been hit up. In reviewing these interactions, we realized that because our recruiters lived within 5 miles of each other, there was overlap in the users they could approach within their geospatial recruitment area.

Although this is an artifact of GSN apps, it resulted in recruiters approaching the same users.

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First, users can change various aspects of their profiles photos and text descriptionsmaking it difficult to track each user. Recruiters noted that this happened often. Second, the added effort necessary to document information on every user with whom the recruiters interacted would be time-consuming.

We determined that the most viable approach when this occurred was to apologize and thank the user for their time. We compared two approaches—stating intent upfront versus building rapport through casual conversations before introducing the study.

Neither was perfect. At times, upfront intent le to unresponsive users. When using the second approach, some users felt deceived or catfished given the time and build-up to mention the study. We opted to introduce the study as early as possible in the conversation to minimize perceptions of deceit. For instance, recruiters did not send an excessive of messages to multiple users within a given day.

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