Methods: In-depth interviews with mentors (n=20) and mentees ages 15-24 (n=17) were conducted in Washington DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. Participants discussed their mentoring relationship generally and as it concerned HIV-related topics, including knowledge, confidence, and comfort level. Participants considered the utility of a mobile app in facilitating discussions (e.g., content, features, layout). Transcripts were coded thematically and analyzed to identify barriers and facilitators to addressing HIV-related mentoring for African American YMSM/T/GNB in preparation for the app development.
Results: Mentee Perspective. Mentees cited a mentor with relatable life experience as a positive factor, and viewed mentors as sources of reliable knowledge about HIV testing, risk, and preventative practices. Barriers to HIV-related mentoring included mentee comfort level, self-esteem, and reluctance to “speak up”. For the app, mentees suggested mentors should be given relevant sharable content such as videos and memes.
Mentor Perspective. Mentors reported comfort in broaching discussions but a need for accurate and timely information regarding HIV. They reported the importance of building trust before broaching HIV-related conversations and suggested resources to improve mentoring skills would be valuable. Mentors also discussed the need for skills building and knowledge sharing, such as through a “mentor forum” in the app. They stressed the app should acknowledge the mental health challenges LGBTQ youth face.
Mentors and mentees cited the need for an app to include general HIV information (e.g. how the virus works, regular testing, PrEP) and a directory of local services.
Conclusions: A mobile app appears to be a promising way to guide mentors on HIV prevention mentoring for African American MSM/T/GNB youth, given sufficient trust and comfort in the relationship. App development and pilot testing is in progress. This formative research is critical for the app design process, as it will allow the end user perspective to be incorporated into the tool.