Although men who have sex with men (MSM) within rural communities are disproportionately impacted by HIV, limited HIV research and programmatic resources are directed to these communities within the U.S. There is a need for improved behavioral data collection methods to obtain more detailed information on the relationship between rural environments, sexual behavior, and substance use. Utilization of mobile health (mHealth) technologies, such as ecologic momentary assessment (EMA), has been advocated for; however, limited research has evaluated its utility among rural MSM. Forty MSM residing in rural Oklahoma were recruited to complete in-depth interviews related to participating online/mobile-based HIV prevention research. Men described a willingness to participate in HIV and substance use studies that use EMA methodologies for data collection; however, they raised various research-related concerns. In particular, participants indicated potential privacy and confidentiality concerns related to the use of the mobile technology-based EMA in public and the storage of data by researchers. Given the varying degree of sexual orientation and substance use disclosure by participants, rural MSM were largely concerned with being inadvertently “outed” within their communities. Men described the various strategies they could employ to protect private information and methods to minimize research risk. Study findings suggest that EMA is an acceptable research methodology for use among rural MSM in the context of HIV and sexual health information, when privacy and confidentiality concerns are adequately addressed. Input from community members and stakeholders is necessary to identify potential areas of concerns for participants prior to data collection.
- Data privacy
- Ecologic momentary assessment
- Men who have sex with men
- Mobile research
- Sexual orientation