Determining preferred attributes of a 'virtual village" platform to halt isolation among people aging with HIV: a community-engaged project


BACKGROUND: COVID-19 exacerbated existing social isolation, depression, and anxiety among older people living with HIV (OPLWH). While the use of existing social networking platforms can help reduce social isolation, they lack specificity for addressing the needs of OPLWH. In response, we are developing a 'virtual village' platform to reduce social isolation among OPLWH. As a first step, we investigated what OPLWH perceive to be the platform's most important attributes.
METHODS: In collaboration with a community advisory board (CAB) of 24 OPLWH '¥50-years-old (from three sites: Palm Springs, CA, Los Angeles, CA, and Tampa Bay, FL), we constructed a list of 28 potential attributes for the virtual village. Next, the CAB rank-ordered the attributes to identify the top-five most important and chose mutually exclusive levels (private chat [yes/no]; cost [free/paid]; sub-communities [yes/no]; social service directory [yes/no]; registration required [yes/no]) for each to create a choice-based conjoint experiment. English-speaking OPLWH '¥50-years-old who resided in a study city and had internet access were then recruited to participate in the experiment and received $50 for completion. Participants compared eight groups of different combinations of four hypothetical virtual village 'scenarios' comprised of the 5 attributes at differing levels, selecting the most acceptable scenario from each group. The relative importance of the attributes was calculated using Sawtooth Software's (2021) Hierarchical Bayesian Analysis.
RESULTS: Participants (N=57) were 50-82 years-old (mean=59.8 years). Most (78.6%; n=45) identified as male. 64.1% (n=35) identified as White, 29.8% (n=17) as Black/African American, and 17.5% (n=10) as Hispanic/Latino/a/x.The preferred attributes for the virtual village in order of their relative preference, and their corresponding levels when compared to all other options (all p's < 0.05) were: cost (24.74%, free); chat function (22.91%, yes); communities (15.58%, yes); services (17.86%, yes); and registration (18.9%, required).
CONCLUSIONS: Participants identified the attributes/levels most important for inclusion in the Virtual Village. Continued development of our Virtual Village will prioritize these attributes during prototype development.