PURPOSE: Mass media HIV testing interventions are effective in increasing testing, but there has been no examination of their theory or behaviour change technique (BCT) content. Within a heterogeneous body of studies with weak evaluative designs and differing outcomes, we attempted to gain useful knowledge to shape future interventions.
METHODS: Within a systematic review, following repeated requests to the authors of included studies for intervention materials, the Theory Coding Scheme, the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF), and Behaviour Change Technique Taxonomy (BCTT) were used to extract data relating to active intervention content.
RESULTS: Of 19 studies, five reported an explicit theoretical basis to their intervention. TDF analysis highlighted the key domains employed within the majority of interventions: 'knowledge', 'social roles and identities', and 'beliefs about consequences'. BCT analysis showed three BCT groupings commonly reported within interventions: 'Comparison of outcomes', 'Natural consequences', and 'Shaping knowledge'. Three individual BCTs formed the backbone of most interventions and can be considered 'standard' content: 'Instructions on how to perform behaviour'; 'Credible source'; and 'Information about health consequences'.
CONCLUSIONS: This is the first study to examine and detail active intervention content in this field. It suggests future interventions should improve knowledge about testing, and use well-branded and trusted sources that endorse testing. Future interventions should also provide clear information about the health benefits of testing. Our analysis also suggests that to improve levels of effectiveness characterizing the current field, it may be useful to elicit commitment, and action plans, relating to how to implement testing intentions.
STATEMENT OF CONTRIBUTION: What is already known on this subject? Interventions are urgently needed to increase HIV testing among men who have sex with men (MSM) and enable increased access to effective treatment for HIV infection. There is some evidence of the effectiveness of mass media interventions in increasing HIV testing among MSM. Nothing is known about the active components of existing mass media interventions targeting HIV testing. What does this study add? It describes the available literature concerning evaluated mass media interventions to increase HIV testing. It shows few interventions report any explicit theoretical basis although many interventions share common components, including coherently connected causal mechanisms and behaviour change techniques to moderate them. As a minimum, future interventions should improve knowledge about testing; use well-branded and trusted sources that endorse testing; and provide clear information about the health benefits of testing. Our analysis also tentatively suggests it may be useful to elicit commitment and planning of how to implement testing intentions.