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The emergence of ethical issues in the provision of online sexual health outreach for gay, bisexual, two-spirit and other men who have sex with men: perspectives of online outreach workers.

The emergence of ethical issues in the provision of online sexual health outreach for gay, bisexual, two-spirit and other men who have sex with men: perspectives of online outreach workers.
Author Information (click to view)

Fantus S, Souleymanov R, Lachowsky NJ, Brennan DJ,


Fantus S, Souleymanov R, Lachowsky NJ, Brennan DJ, (click to view)

Fantus S, Souleymanov R, Lachowsky NJ, Brennan DJ,

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BMC medical ethics 2017 11 0318(1) 59 doi 10.1186/s12910-017-0216-7

Abstract
BACKGROUND
Mobile applications and socio-sexual networking websites are used by outreach workers to respond synchronously to questions and provide information, resources, and referrals on sexual health and STI/HIV prevention, testing, and care to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GB2M). This exploratory study examined ethical issues identified by online outreach workers who conduct online sexual health outreach for GB2M.

METHODS
Semi-structured individual interviews were conducted between November 2013 and April 2014 with online providers and managers (n = 22) to explore the benefits, challenges, and ethical implications of delivering online outreach services in Ontario, Canada. Interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analyses were conducted, and member-checking, analyses by multiple coders, and peer debriefing supported validity and reliability.

RESULTS
Four themes emerged on the ethical queries of providing online sexual health outreach for GB2M: (a) managing personal and professional boundaries with clients; (b) disclosing personal or identifiable information to clients; (c) maintaining client confidentiality and anonymity; and (d) security and data storage measures of online information. Participants illustrated familiarity with potential ethical challenges, and discussed ways in which they seek to mitigate and prevent ethical conflict.

CONCLUSIONS
Implications of this analysis for outreach workers, researchers, bioethicists, and policy-makers are to: (1) understand ethical complexities associated with online HIV prevention and outreach for GB2M; (2) foster dialogue to recognize and address potential ethical conflict; and (3) identify competencies and skills to mitigate risk and promote responsive and accessible online HIV outreach.

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