International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
MHealth-Enhanced Economic Empowerment Initiatives for HIV Prevention among Youth Living in Urban Slums in Kenya
Health-promoting economic empowerment initiatives are under-developed in the global response to HIV/AIDS. Youth living in impoverished urban settings are particularly vulnerable to HIV given high risk sexual behaviors, low education, poor access to health services, and reliance on illicit income generation. African youth have experienced rapid adoption of mobile phone technologies. Emerging thinking has explored whether integrated poverty reduction and HIV prevention efforts can be more efficiently tailored by use of mobile technologies that enable rapid, multi-dimensional communicative and transactional encounters. Mobile-enhanced platforms may hold promise in galvanizing virtual HIV-free generation networks that integrate poverty alleviation activities with HIV education and economically-incentivized HIV preventive health promotion. However, questions remain regarding the causal pathways between economic empowerment and HIV vulnerability, including differences among young men and women. Research is needed likewise to inform the design of an integrated mHealth HIV-related economic program, including development of metrics to track progress across intended outcomes. This study uses mixed methods to characterize local and gendered representations of economic empowerment, its influence on HIV vulnerability, and the role of mobile technology among Kenyan youth living in two urban slums. Qualitative data will be used to develop and test an HIV-contextualized economic empowerment scale. In addition, urban youths’ sexual behaviors, mobile phone use, and economic empowerment histories will also be collected via quantitative questionnaires. Study findings will be used to apply for NIH R series implementation research funding, and two manuscripts will be prepared to share findings on youths’ perspectives and scale development.