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“Mini Dial-A-Nurses” and “Good Brands“: What Are the Desirable Features of Online HIV/STI Risk Calculators?

Research theme(s)
Risk Self-assessment Tools

Oralia Gómez-Ramírez, Kim Thomson, Travis Salway, Devon Haag, Titilola Falasinnu, Troy Grennan, Daniel Grace, Mark Gilbert.

AIDS Education and Prevention 2020; 32(6): 528–542.  

Pocket-sized infographic tool for download
Tips for Developers of Online HIV/STI Risk Calculators

A wide variety of risk calculators estimate individuals’ risk for HIV/sexually transmitted infections (STI) online. These tools can help target HIV/STI screening and optimize clinical decision-making. Yet, little evidence exists on suitable features for these tools to be acceptable to end-users. We investigated the desirable characteristics of risk calculators among STI clinic clients and testing service providers. Participants interacted with online HIV/STI risk calculators featuring varied target audiences, completion lengths, and message outputs. Thematic analysis of focus groups identified six qualities that would make risk calculators more appealing for online client use: providing personalized risk assessments based on users’ specific sexual behaviors and HIV/STI-related concerns; incorporating nuanced risk assessment and tailored educational information; supplying quantifiable risk estimates; using non-stigmatizing and inclusive framing; including explanations and next steps; and developing effective and appropriate branding. Incorporating these features in the design of online HIV/STI risk calculators may improve their acceptability among end-users.