Background: HIV self-testing (HIVST) has demonstrated potential to expand HIV testing among key populations, including men who have sex with men (MSM) in China who have low testing rates. However, due to the autonomous nature of self-testing, people who undergo HIVST may lack access to relevant information and counseling support typically provided by in-person HIV testing counselors. WeChat, a popular smartphone application in China, offers a potential source of mobile health (mHealth) information and support for individuals using HIVST. This paper aimed to explore the opinions of MSM in China about the feasibility and potential concerns of using WeChat to support HIVST and reduce risk for HIV infection. Methods: We conducted in-depth interviews with 36 MSM about their mobile smartphone usage and the use of WeChat for helping MSM self-administer HIVST kits in Hefei, China. Each interview was digitally recorded and transcribed. Transcripts were analyzed used content analysis method according to Elo and Kyngas. Results: MSM described their use of WeChat and expressed cautious endorsement about using this platform to promote HIVST and disseminate HIV-related information. They described their preferences about the implementation features of an mHealth intervention to promote HIVST, including the delivery source of intervention messages, as well as message timing, frequency, form, tone, and content. Participants also described privacy-related concerns about receiving messages via WeChat and offered potential solutions. Conclusions: Findings from this study show the potential utility of WeChat app-based messaging for engaging MSM in HIV self-testing and prevention. Future research is needed to integrate the concerns expressed in this analysis and evaluate a WeChat-based intervention to promote oral HIV self-testing, risk reduction, and health promotion among MSM in China.
- HIV prevention
- Mobile health (mHealth)
- Oral HIV self-testing (oral HIVST)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health