Ethical Considerations in Recruiting Online and Implementing a Text Messaging–Based HIV Prevention Program With Gay, Bisexual, and Queer Adolescent Males

Michele L. Ybarra*, Tonya L. Prescott, Gregory L. Phillips, Jeffrey T. Parsons, Sheana S. Bull, Brian Mustanski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Scopus citations


Purpose There is a dearth of HIV prevention/healthy sexuality programs developed for adolescent gay and bisexual males (AGBM) as young as 14 years old, in part because of the myriad ethical concerns. To address this gap, we present our ethics-related experiences implementing Guy2Guy, a text messaging-based HIV prevention/healthy sexuality program, in a randomized controlled trial of 302 14- to 18-year-old sexual minority males. Methods Potential risks and efforts to reduce these risks are discussed within the framework of the Belmont Report: Respect for persons, beneficence (e.g., risks and benefits), and justice (e.g., fair distribution of benefits and burdens). Results To ensure “respect for persons,” online enrollment was coupled with telephone assent, which included assessing decisional capacity to assent. Beneficence was promoted by obtaining a waiver of parental permission and using a self-safety assessment to help youth evaluate their risk in taking part. Justice was supported through efforts to develop and test the program among those who would be most likely to use it if it were publicly available (e.g., youth who own a cell phone and are enrolled in an unlimited text messaging plan), along with the use of recruitment targets to ensure a racially, ethnically, and regionally diverse sample. Conclusions It is possible to safely implement a sensitive and HIV prevention/healthy sexuality program with sexual minority youth as young as 14 years old when a rigorous ethical protocol is in place.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-49
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016



  • Ethics
  • Gay, bisexual, queer
  • HIV prevention
  • LGB
  • LGBT
  • MSM
  • RCT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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