JMIR Form Res. 2023 Oct 27;7:e48515. doi: 10.2196/48515.
BACKGROUND: Mentoring can promote positive youth development. Owing to social and structural factors, young people in underresourced communities often lack adequate access to mentors, and naturally occurring mentors are more common than formal, programmatic mentors. There is little information on the impact of naturally occurring mentors on youth in general and even less on the role that mentors may play in promoting healthy outcomes in sexual and gender minority youth. African American young men who have sex with men (YMSM) are more likely to reside in communities with limited access to formalized mentorship programs and may benefit from naturally occurring mentoring relationships that address health outcomes, specifically related to HIV.
OBJECTIVE: This study is a usability test of a mobile app designed for the mentors of African American YMSM to increase mentors’ knowledge of and confidence in talking about HIV prevention and related topics with mentees.
METHODS: Following consent, eligible and naturally occurring mentoring pairs involving African American YMSM in Baltimore; Philadelphia; and Washington, District of Columbia, tested the app, UrbanMentorHub, for usability. Participants downloaded the app and used it for 1 month, completed pre- and postintervention surveys, and participated in a follow-up focus group discussion. Participants’ sociodemographic characteristics and HIV- and mentorship-related measures were characterized using descriptive statistics. Wilcoxon signed rank tests were used to test for pre- and postintervention differences in knowledge, confidence, and outcome expectancy measures. Focus group discussions were audio recorded and transcribed. Transcripts were thematically coded and analyzed to identify ways that UrbanMentorHub could be improved in the mentoring context.
RESULTS: Nine mentorship pairs participated in this usability study (N=18). Mentors obtained high scores on knowledge, confidence, outcome expectancies, skills, and intentions related to HIV and mentoring. No pre- or postintervention changes were observed in these measures. Mentors reported usually initiating conversations around HIV testing and pre-exposure prophylaxis; mentees and mentors equally initiated conversations on sexual practices and same-sex relationships. Mentors reported sexual practices as the most frequently discussed topic in the past month and pre-exposure prophylaxis being the least discussed. Mentees reported high comfort with HIV-related conversations. No pre- or postintervention change was observed regarding HIV knowledge. Most mentees reported having discussed most HIV-related topics with their mentor in the past month. Mentor feedback on the app was mostly neutral, although they reported positive perceptions of the idea of the app, indicating the potential for addressing a need in their communities. Mentors suggested ways to improve the app content and design elements.
CONCLUSIONS: Although there was no observed statistical change in measured outcomes, and qualitative feedback was overall neutral, the results of this usability study can inform future work to design and promote interventions and resources that support mentoring relationships for African American YMSM.