Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


The MenSS (Men's Safer Sex) website to increase condom use: intervention development and pilot trial

Principal investigator: Dr Julia Bailey
Research Associate: Dr Rosie Webster

Sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy are major public health problems. Condoms are effective for prevention of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, but there are many barriers to successful use such as decrease in sensation, interruption of sex, incorrect size or fit, use of alcohol/recreational drugs, anxiety, and stigma.

Interactive digital interventions (IDI) are highly suitable for sexual health issues since access can be private and self-paced, and programmes can be tailored according to individual characteristics. Digital interventions are effective at increasing knowledge and there is evidence of effect on sexual behaviour.

To explore the potential of sexual health promotion via digital media, we are developing the MenSS (Men's Safer Sex) intervention website, which aims to encourage increased condom use in male sexual health clinic attendees who are at high risk of sexually transmitted infection. We are developing the website in partnership with illumina/Digital Life Sciences.

We have carried out qualitative field work to inform the content and design of the website:

  • Workshops with sexual health experts
  • Interviews with men to explore the barriers and facilitators affecting condom use
  • Review of behaviour change theory to develop a model for behaviour change and intervention content and design
  • Focus groups with men to ask their views on the design and content of the website.

From January 2014 we will run a pilot randomised controlled trial in three sexual health clinics, recruiting men aged 18 years and over at high risk of STI. The trial is an online trial - registration, informed consent, randomisation and data collection will all be conducted online. Men will be randomly allocated either to usual clinic care plus the website, or to usual clinic care only. Tablet computers will be available in the waiting rooms of participating sexual health clinics for men to register for the trial, and to interact with the MenSS website if allocated to the intervention group.

Follow-up will be mainly by email, with telephone and postal follow-up for non-responders. We will follow participants for 12 months, testing changes in knowledge, confidence in ability (self-efficacy), condom use and sexually transmitted infections, and also collecting data on potential cost-effectiveness.

We will also conduct a qualitative evaluation of our trial procedures, interviewing male trial participants for their views on the acceptability of the online trial procedures and views of the MenSS website.

Trial registration number: ISRCTN18649610

This project is funded by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme

For more detail please see: http://www.nets.nihr.ac.uk/projects/hta/1013101