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Peer support interventions for people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) are effective, but their associated time and material costs for the recipient and the health system make them reachable for only a small proportion of PLWHA. Internet-based interventions are an effective alternative for delivering psychosocial interventions for PLWHA as they are more accessible. Currently, no reviews are focusing on internet-based interventions with peer support components. This scoping review aims to map the existing literature on psychosocial interventions for PLWHA based on peer support and delivered through the internet. We conducted a systematic scoping review of academic literature following methodological guidelines for scoping reviews, and 28 articles met our criteria. We summarized the main characteristics of the digital peer support interventions for PLWHA and how they implemented peer support in a virtual environment. Overall the reported outcomes appeared promising, but more robust evidence is needed.
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RESEARCH ARTICLE
Internet-based peer support interventions for
people living with HIV: A scoping review
Stefanella Costa-CordellaID
1,2,3
, Aitana Grasso-Cladera
1,3
, Alejandra Rossi
3
,
Javiera DuarteID
1,2
, Flavia Guiñazu
4
, Claudia P. CortesID
5,6
*
1Centro de Estudios en Psicologı
´a Clı
´nica y Psicoterapia (CEPPS), Facultad de Psicologı
´a, Universidad
Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile, 2Instituto Milenio Depresio
´n y Personalidad (MIDAP), Santiago, Chile,
3Centro de Estudios en Neurociencia Humana y Neuropsicologı
´a (CENHN), Facultad de Psicologı
´a,
Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile, 4Web Intelligence Centre, Facultad de Ingenierı
´a Industrial,
Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile, 5Hospital Clı
´nico San Borja Arriara
´n & Fundacio
´n Arriara
´n, Santiago,
Chile, 6Departamento de Medicina, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile
*cpcortes@uchile.cl
Abstract
Peer support interventions for people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) are effective, but
their associated time and material costs for the recipient and the health system make them
reachable for only a small proportion of PLWHA. Internet-based interventions are an effec-
tive alternative for delivering psychosocial interventions for PLWHA as they are more acces-
sible. Currently, no reviews are focusing on internet-based interventions with peer support
components. This scoping review aims to map the existing literature on psychosocial inter-
ventions for PLWHA based on peer support and delivered through the internet. We con-
ducted a systematic scoping review of academic literature following methodological
guidelines for scoping reviews, and 28 articles met our criteria. We summarized the main
characteristics of the digital peer support interventions for PLWHA and how they imple-
mented peer support in a virtual environment. Overall the reported outcomes appeared
promising, but more robust evidence is needed.
Introduction
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) affects more than 37.7 million people worldwide and
its prevalence is still increasing [1]. The primary HIV treatment is Antiretroviral Therapy
(ART) which works to suppress replication of the virus resulting in improved immune
response and reduced viral load. However, inadequate adherence to ART is associated with
morbidity and mortality [24].
Because of the essential role of adherence in the success of ART, a myriad of research has
been carried out to understand ART adherence. Among factors that predict HIV treatment
adherence, an important role has been found in psychosocial factors such as social support [5
7], HIV stigma [6,8,9], stress and depression [7,1014], violence [15,16] and alcohol and
other drug consumption [1719], which increase the probability of a disadvantageous outcome
by adding substance abuse stigma [20]. Consequently, different psychosocial interventions
have been developed to address treatment adherence, and they have increasingly been
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OPEN ACCESS
Citation: Costa-Cordella S, Grasso-Cladera A,
Rossi A, Duarte J, Guiñazu F, Cortes CP (2022)
Internet-based peer support interventions for
people living with HIV: A scoping review. PLoS
ONE 17(8): e0269332. https://doi.org/10.1371/
journal.pone.0269332
Editor: Bronwyn Myers, South African Medical
Research Council, SOUTH AFRICA
Received: September 21, 2021
Accepted: May 18, 2022
Published: August 30, 2022
Peer Review History: PLOS recognizes the
benefits of transparency in the peer review
process; therefore, we enable the publication of
all of the content of peer review and author
responses alongside final, published articles. The
editorial history of this article is available here:
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0269332
Copyright: ©2022 Costa-Cordella et al. This is an
open access article distributed under the terms of
the Creative Commons Attribution License, which
permits unrestricted use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium, provided the original
author and source are credited.
Data Availability Statement: All files are available
from the OSF database (osf.io/5bkzv).
Funding: This study was funded by the Chilean
National Agency of Research and Development
demonstrated to enhance HIV adherence and improve health in people living with HIV/AIDS
(PLWHA) [10,11,19,2126]. Peer support is the support provided by people who share life
experiences [27]. Applied to interventions, peer support typically includes group meetings,
support networks (either virtual or in-person), or peer-mentoring [28]. Peer support has been
a common and effective strategy for people living with stigmatized conditions [2932]. Peer
support is also efficient in lowering the overall costs of medical provision [3133].
Specifically, in PLWHA, peer support interventions have shown to address internalized
stigma [3438] adequately, reduce depressive symptomatology [34] and stress [3539],
enhance the quality of life and wellness [40], and improve treatment adherence [4148].
Peer support interventions are recommended in official health guidelines such as the Cen-
ter for Disease and Prevention [49] and the British HIV Association [50].
However, these services are rarely offered in HIV clinics due to existing structural barriers,
such as a lack of mental health services and difficulties in accessing services [51,52]. Against
this scenario, internet-based interventions have proliferated. These are easy to access by many
people due to resource-saving and flexible delivery [53]. Additionally, internet-based interven-
tions offer anonymity, are easily accessible, and are also scalable [51,5456]. Therefore, they
have been suggested as an alternative to overcome the barriers mentioned above [57,58].
Recent reviews of internet-based interventions have significantly impacted outcomes,
including adherence, viral load, mental health, and social support for PLWHA [59,60].
However, none of the reviews has focused on peer support interventions delivered virtually.
We conducted a scoping review to map the existing literature on psychosocial interventions
for PLWHA based on peer support and delivered through the internet. We chose the scoping
review methodology developed by Peters and colleagues [61] since it allows comprehensive
identification of the types and nature of psychosocial interventions for PLWHA, based on peer
support and delivered through the internet described in the published literature [61]. Specifi-
cally, this review aims to answer the following questions: 1) What internet-based peer support
interventions are available for PLWHA? What are their main characteristics? 2) How do the
available interventions integrate peer support?
To our knowledge, this is the first systematic effort to provide such an overview.
Methods
Protocol and registration
We conducted a systematic scoping review of the peer-reviewed academic literature following
the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) methodological guidance for scoping review [62] and the Pre-
ferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) extension for
scoping reviews [63] Our pre-registered protocol containing the detailed methods is available
at Open Science Framework (http://osf.io/r729p) (S1 Appendix).
Eligibility criteria
We included studies about psychosocial interventions designed explicitly for PLWHA and
AIDS, based on peer support and delivered through technological devices and/or the internet.
For this scoping review, any comparator was relevant for inclusion, and studies without a com-
parator were also assessed for eligibility. All available publications were eligible for inclusion
(e.g., articles -any design, excluding systematic and scoping reviews-articles in conference pro-
ceedings, websites, chapters in textbooks). This scoping review had no limitations regarding
the time of publication and duration of the intervention and no language restriction. S1 and S2
Appendices show the eligibility criteria and the search strategy.
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(Agencia Nacional de Investigacio
´n y Desarrollo de
Chile) through FONDEF to CC (ID20I10174), and
the Chilean National Agency of Research and
Development (Agencia Nacional de Investigacio
´n y
Desarrollo de Chile) through FONDECYT to AR (N˚
1190610). The funders had no role in study design,
data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or
preparation of the manuscript.
Competing interests: The authors have declared
that no competing interests exist.
Information sources
A comprehensive literature research of electronic bibliographic databases was conducted in
PUBMED, Web of Science (WOS), and CINAHL Complete (through EBSCO). This selection
was made according to our institutional availability/accessibility; for this reason, some data-
bases were excluded (e.g., EMBASE, Cochrane). All databases and sources of information were
consulted on March 10, 2022. The reference lists of 13 relevant reviews on the topic were
screened [19,25,26,6473].
Search
We developed the search strategy using the PRESS (Peer Review of Electronic Search Strate-
gies) checklist [74], which was adapted to three databases. This step was conducted by the
investigators (S.C.C. & A.G.C.) without the collaboration of a librarian due to institutional lim-
itations. The words used were related to telemedicine or internet-delivered interventions (i.e.,
ehealth, digital health, mobile health), HIV or AIDS, and peer support or support group (for
the complete search string, see S3 Appendix) were searched in the articles’ title. No other limi-
tation was applied to the search.
Sources of evidence selection
The database and manual searches were exported into Microsoft Excel [75]. Duplicate papers
were removed. Two reviewers (S.C.C. & A.G.C.) independently screened each article for inclu-
sion by title, excluding articles that failed the eligibility criteria. Then, the same two reviewers
independently screened the article by abstract using a Google form questionnaire containing
details to inform decision-making about inclusion/exclusion. Disagreements between review-
ers were resolved through an iterative consensus process involving multiple rounds of deliber-
ative discussion.
Data charting process
The authors developed a Google form questionnaire with detailed instructions (S.C.C. & A.G.
C.) and were approved by the research team to achieve the charting process. This form was
guided by the objectives of the present review, being the items related to articles’ characteriza-
tion and their conceptualization of peer support. To ensure internal consistency, some articles
were codified in duplicate by two authors (S.C.C. & A.G.C.) and the rest was done indepen-
dently by the same researchers.
Data items
First, articles’ data were sought regarding study characterization: 1) year of publication; 2)
location of the study; 3) study design/article type; 4) population; 5) name of the intervention;
and 6) type of technology used. Then, the articles were revised to identify their conceptualiza-
tion of the peer support component of the intervention (i.e., peer support application).
Synthesis of results
Data was summarized in a narrative account following the guidelines for scoping reviews [76].
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Results
Selection of sources of evidence
The initial search yielded 517 articles, and 15 more were found by manual search from reviews’
citations. After the removal of duplicate titles, 416 articles were left. Then, two authors (S.C.C.
& A.G.C.) screened titles and abstracts, and 28 articles were included in the review and went
through the codification process (Fig 1).
Characteristics of sources of evidence
As shown in Table 1, of the total of included articles, 13 were published during 2017–2019
[7789], eight during 2020–2022 [9097], four during the 2014–2016 period [98101], two
were published during 2008–2010 [102,103], and one during 2011–2013 [104].
The majority of articled revised were studies conducted in the United States (12) [77,
8082,84,88,90,94,95,99,100,104], three were from Kenya [86,92,102] and three from
South Africa [85,93,101]. Locations like China, the United Kingdom and Zambia had
two studies included in this review [79,87,91,96,98,103] and, from the total of articles
included, only one article was from Malaysia, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda [78,83,89,
97].
Regarding the study type, eight of the included articles corresponded to pilot studies [77,
79,86,88,92,101,102,104], while seven articles explicitly indicate a clinical trial type of design
[83,85,86,90,95,96,98], as well as five protocols [8082,93,94] and five qualitative studies
[87,91,99,100,103]. Only two Randomized Controlled Trials [78,97], and one cohort study
[89].
Fig 1. PRISMA flowchart.
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0269332.g001
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Synthesis of results
Peer support interventions. Table 2 summarizes the total of interventions included and
reviewed in this work. Only 20 of the total of 28 mentioned a specific name for the
intervention.
Interventions’ main characteristics. The total of interventions included were codified
according to their characteristics such as target population, eHealth type and the objective of
each intervention. Table 3 summarizes the information of these categories.
Target population. All the interventions were exclusively conducted for PLWHA. Of the
total of interventions reviewed, 10 of them were orientated to an adult population (18 years or
older) [77,78,88,94,95,98,99,102104], nine were tailored for children, adolescents, and
young adults [7981,8486,90,97,101], three interventions were exclusively designed for
adolescents [83,93,96], and only one was made exclusive for young adults [100]. Finally, four
interventions were orientated to other populations (e.g., mothers, female sex workers, men
who have sex with other men [MSM]) [82,87,89,91].
Type of digital health. The interventions used a myriad of digital tools to be delivered. The
use of social networking platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp was one of the most fre-
quent strategies (n = 7) of the reviewed studies [79,83,85,92,93,100,101], as well as the use
Table 1. Characterization of included articles.
Articles’ Characteristics
Year of Publication n (%)
2008–2010 2 (7.14)
2011–2013 1 (3.57)
2014–2016 4 (14.28)
2017–2019 13 (46.42)
2020–2022 8 (28.57)
Location
China 2 (7.14)
Kenya 3 (10.71)
Malaysia 1 (3.57)
Nigeria 1 (3.57)
South Africa 3 (10.71)
Tanzania 1 (3.57)
Uganda 1 (3.57)
UK 2 (7.14)
USA 12 (42.85)
Zambia 2 (7.14)
Type of Study
Pilot
a
8 (28.57)
Other Clinical Trials
b
7 (25)
Protocol
c
5 (17.85)
Qualitative 5 (17.85)
Randomized Clinical Trial 2 (7.14)
Randomized Clinical Trial 1 (3.57)
a
Pilot,feasibility and acceptability trials.
b
All types of clinical trial designs (e.g. pre-post, with no control group).
c
Protocols for Randomized Controlled Trials and other designs.
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of websites (n = 7) [8082,86,98,102,103]. The development of a smartphone App was also
present in 4 interventions [77,88,96,99], along with the use of SMS and phone calls to estab-
lish communication between peers [78,81,85,93]. Only three studies developed a web-based
platform [84,94,95], two used SMS communication exclusively [87,97], and two interven-
tions were delivered via videoconference [90,98]. Only one intervention showed the partici-
pants´ videos made by peers [104].
Interventions’ goals. The most common objectives were treatment adherence (n = 14) [78,
80,8286,88,89,92,95,99,102,104], and social support (n = 7) [77,83,91,94,96,101,103].
Five of the interventions were dedicated to retention in care [87,88,93,95,101], and four to
viral load suppression [78,80,90,95]. Two interventions were oriented to stigma reduction
[92,104] and the other two to increase HIV knowledge [83,98]. Finally, the aims of well-being
[100], mental health [92], and legal support [94] were included only once each.
Peer support implementation. The role of peer support was incorporated differently in
the revised interventions. Some interventions combined more than one strategy to implement
Table 2. Interventions’ name.
Interventions’ Name
Reference
Winstead-Derlega et al.,
2012
Positive Project
Broaddus et al., 2015 My YAP Family
Henwood et al., 2016 Khaya HIV Positive
Flickinger et al., 2017 Positive Links
Westergaard et al., 2017 mPeer2Peer
Dulli et al., 2018 SMART Connections
Horvath et al., 2018 Thrive With Me
Hacking et al., 2019 The Virtual Mentors Program
Horvath et al., 2019 YouTHrive
Ivanova et al., 2019 ELIMIKA
Knudson et al., 2019 China MP3 (Multi-component HIV Intervention Packages for Chinese MSM)
Navarra et al., 2019 ACCESS (Adherence Connection for Counseling, Education, and Support)
Tun et al., 2019 CBHTC+ (Intervention within Sauti project)
Hay et al., 2020 4MNetwork
MacCarthy et al., 2020 SITA (SMS as an Incentive To Adhere)
Ochoa et al., 2021 LINX App / LINX App Plus
Simpson et al., 2021 Insaka
Steinbock et al., 2022 End+dDisparities ECHO Collaborative
Stockman et al., 2021 LinkPositively
Zanoni et al., 2022 InTSHA (Interactive Transition Support for Adolescents Living With HIV using
Social Media)
Mo & Coulson,2008 Unnamed
Wools-Kaloustian et al.,
2009
Mi et al., 2015
Abdulrahman et al., 2017
Senn et al., 2017
Rotheram et al., 2019
St Clair-Sullivan et la.,
2019
Chory et al., 2022
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0269332.t002
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Table 3. Main characteristics of the included interventions.
Interventions’ Main Characteristics
Reference Target Population Digital Health Tool Interventions’ Objective
Winstead-Derlega
et al., 2012
Rural adults (18 or older) iPod preprogrammed with peer
health videos
Improve treatment adherence and reduce the
perception of stigma
Broaddus et al.,
2015
Young adults (16–25 years) Private Facebook group Improve patient well-being
Henwood et al.,
2016
Adolescents and young adults (12–25 years) Chat-room through MXit social
networking platform
Retain youth throughout the continuum of care
and provide ongoing social support within a peer
learning environment
Flickinger et al.,
2017
Adults (18 or older), attending a university clinic Smartphone App Improve treatment adherence
Westergaard et al.,
2017
Adults (18 or older), history of substance abuse Smartphone App Support HIV treatment for patients who had been
marginally engaged in care
Dulli et al., 2018 Adolescents (15–19 years), on ART treatment Private Facebook group Improve HIV knowledge, social support, and
treatment adherence
Horvath et al.,
2018
Men (MSM
d
), suboptimal adherence to treatment Website and SMS Assess the impact of the intervention on the target
population
Hacking et al., 2019 Adolescents and young adults (12–25 years), newly
diagnosed HIV positive, not in treatment
Smartphone communication
(SMS, phone call or WhatsApp)
Improve treatment adherence by referring patients
to an adherence club
Horvath et al.,
2019
Adolescents and young adults (15–24 años) Website Enhance treatment adherence and improve other
outcomes (e.g. decreased viral load)
Ivanova et al., 2019 Adolescents and young adultos (15–24 years), all level of
treatment
Website Improve treatment adherence
Knudson et al.,
2019
Men (MSM) newly diagnosed HIV positive SMS Facilitate engagement in care and initiation of
antiretroviral therapy
Navarra et al.,
2019
Adolescents and young adults (16–29 years), belonging to
ethnic minority (African Americans and Hispanics/
Latinos)
Mobile platform Improve treatment adherence
Tun et al., 2019 Female sex workers (FSW) WhatsApp Improve treatment adherence
Hay et al., 2020 Mothers WhatsApp Improve social support (informational, emotional,
and practical support)
MacCarthy et al.,
2020
Adolescents and young adults (15–24 years), taking ART SMS Improve treatment adherence
Ochoa et al., 2021 Adults (18 or older), male Black or African American,
belonging to a sexual minority
Web based mobile App Provide social and legal resources and peer
support
Simpson et al.,
2021
Adolescent pregnant women (28–34 weeks of pregnancy) Smartphone (message platform) Assess the feasibility and acceptability of this
mobile phone-based support group intervention
Steinbock et al.,
2022
Adolescents and young adults (13–24 years), men (MSM)
with men of color, Black/African American and Latina
women, and transgender people
Videoconferences Improve rates of viral suppression
Stockman et al.,
2021
Adults (18 or older) Woman with African American,
Black, or of African descent and experience of
interpersonal violence
Web based App Improve retention in care, treatment adherence,
and viral suppression
Zanoni et al., 2022 Adolescents (15–19 years), with perinatally acquired HIV Smartphone (websites, phone
call, WhatsApp)
Evaluate the retention in care during the transition
from pediatric to adult care
Mo & Coulson,
2008
Adults Website Improve social support
Wools-Kaloustian
et al., 2009
Adults, stable in cART treatment Website Improve treatment adherence
Mi et al., 2015 Adults (18 or older), men (MSM) Website, online sessions
(discussion and counseling)
Promote safe sex behaviors and access to HIV
services
Abdulrahman
et al., 2017
Adults SMS, phone call Enhance treatment adherence and improve other
outcomes (e.g. decreased viral load)
Senn et al., 2017 Adults (18 or older), black men (MSM) Smartphone App Improve retention in care and treatment
adherence
(Continued)
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peer support. The communication via posts in a group board or online forums was one of the
most common interventions (n = 7) [7982,94,99,103], followed by the use of peer counsel-
ors (n = 5) [78,81,84,87,98] and the use of SMS or WhatsApp to establish contact between
peers (n = 5) [81,88,9193]. Implementing trained peers to provide psychosocial and logisti-
cal support was also a strategy for four of the revised interventions [77,85,86,102], and the
use of online support groups was also frequently presented in the interventions [83,90,100,
101]. Two of the reviewed studies used online focus groups [96,97], one implemented peer
education [89], and only one used videos made by peers [104]. At last, one intervention gener-
ated a strategy of matched peers who had similar trauma experiences [95]. As an important
component, three of the reviewed interventions incorporated peer support anonymously [79,
96,99]. Table 4 summarizes the type of peer support implemented by each intervention.
Discussion
Summary
This review aimed to systematically scope the empirical literature on peer-support psychoso-
cial interventions for PLWHA. More specifically, we aimed to 1) identify the existent digital
peer support interventions currently available for PLWHA; 2) summarize the main character-
istics of the available interventions 3) examine how the interventions implemented peer sup-
port in a virtual environment.
Twenty-eight studies were identified in a systematic search across peer-reviewed journals.
Papers were primarily pilot studies and protocols published in North America or Africa
within the last 5 years. This recent increase in papers reflects the growing interest in develop-
ing peer-support eHealth interventions for PLWHA. Even though only three studies were
RCT, the relatively large number of RCT protocols suggests that this field will continue grow-
ing in the coming years. Participants were mainly HIV+ adults predominantly from minority
ethnic, racial and/or sexual backgrounds. None of the studies was conducted in Latin America,
which is problematic considering the high prevalence of HIV (approximately 1.8 million peo-
ple in 2017) [105,106], the difficulties presented in achieving the 90-90-90 targets designated
by UNAIDS [107], and the tendency for late treatment initiation [105].
Social networks and messaging apps (such as Facebook or WhatsApp) were the most fre-
quently used digital health tools, which is consistent with research suggesting the increasing
validity of psychosocial interventions using social networks for different populations [108
110]. Considering the ongoing massification of both smartphones [111113] and access to the
internet worldwide [114,115], this is a positive finding and suggests that there are indeed
eHealth interventions that could be more widely accessed.
Table 3. (Continued)
Interventions’ Main Characteristics
Reference Target Population Digital Health Tool Interventions’ Objective
Rotheram et al.,
2019
Adolescents and young adults, all level of treatment Website, SMS, and phone call Promote retention in care during treatment
continuum in youth
St Clair-Sullivan et
la., 2019
Adolescents and young adults (16–24 years), currently
receiving HIV care
Smartphone communication
(WhatsApp and Facebook)
Identify barriers to HIV care and the acceptability
and of mHealth to improve treatment adherence
Chory et al., 2022 Children and adolescents (10–19 years), on ART
treatment
WhatsApp Enhance treatment adherence, reduce stigma and
improve mental health
d
Men who have Sex with other Men.
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The most common peer activity was the participation in social networking posting, peer
counseling, and peer discussions and conversations through WhatsApp or other social mes-
saging services, which are considered to be an asynchronous form of technology [116].
Interestingly, very few interventions [78,9698] incorporating face-to-face synchronic
interaction were identified. Even though numerous studies have shown that synchronous tech-
nologies (such as real-time video conferencing) are a valid method to deliver group psychoso-
cial interventions [116,117], real-time activities present constraints (i.e., scheduling) that can
be overcome with asynchronous technologies[116].
Also, digital support emerges as a promising approach to complement healthcare [118,
119]. For instance, through digital peer support, patients may have more efficient access to
both health care services and HIV-related information (e.g., whether and how often the person
should seek medical assistance based on symptoms).
Table 4. Description of how the peer support was implemented.
Peer Support Implementation
Reference Peer Support Type
Winstead-Derlega et al.,
2012
Peer messages delivered through videos
Broaddus et al., 2015 Online support groups
Henwood et al., 2016 Online and face to face support groups
Flickinger et al., 2017 Interaction through a community message board (CMB) with anonymous usernames
Westergaard et al., 2017 Peer trained to deliver intensive psychosocial and logistical support
Dulli et al., 2018 Support groups moderated by trained peers
Horvath et al., 2018 Online forum, social network posts
Hacking et al., 2019 Peer as trained mentees that contact recently diagnosed people to attend an adherence
club
Horvath et al., 2019 Online forum, messages and social network posts
Ivanova et al., 2019 Peer as trained mentees that contact diagnosed people to participated in an adherence
intervention
Knudson et al., 2019 Face to face counseling and contact with via SMS
Navarra et al., 2019 Peers trained as coaches
Tun et al., 2019 Peer education
Hay et al., 2020 WhatsApp groups
MacCarthy et al., 2020 Focus group
Ochoa et al., 2021 Online forum
Simpson et al., 2021 Focus group, first interviews and SMS communication
Steinbock et al., 2022 Online support group
Stockman et al., 2021 Match with a trained and trauma-informed virtual peer, communication via
smartphone
Zanoni et al., 2022 WhatsApp groups
Mo & Coulson,2008 Messages posted at an online board
Wools-Kaloustian et al.,
2009
Instructors that mediates between medical attention and patients giving advices
Mi et al., 2015 Online peer counseling and giving information via website
Abdulrahman et al., 2017 Online peer counseling
Senn et al., 2017 SMS texting with participants
Rotheram et al., 2019 Social media forums and coaching via SMS, phone, or in-person
St Clair-Sullivan et la.,
2019
Online support forum
Chory et al., 2022 WhatsApp groups
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It is worth noting that although internet-based interventions may help ease difficulties in
access for some PLWHA—access to these interventions may be limited for some populations
and marginalized groups (e.,g., older people, people with severe mental health conditions, peo-
ple with specific disabilities,) [120122]. Likewise, the risk of digital exclusion may make a
strong point for face to face services.
Limitations
Our scoping review has two main limitations. Firstly, it was conducted only in 3 databases
(PUBMED, Web of Science, and CINAHL Complete). The selection of these databases was
due to a limited institutional budget; for this reason, some databases were excluded (e.g.,
EMBASE, Cochrane).
Secondly, and also due to institutional limitations, we did not count with the collaboration
of a librarian, which may have had an impact on the expertise in designing and refining the
main gsearch of our paper.
Conclusion
In this review we have summarized the digital peer support interventions currently available
for PLWHA, their main characteristics, and the way in which they implemented peer support
in a virtual environment.
Overall the reported outcomes appeared promising, especially regarding potential improve-
ments in treatment adherence and enhanced perceived social support. Future research should
focus on continuing collecting data through RCTs studies in diverse social contexts. Having
robust diverse evidence of the effectiveness of this type of interventions may help expand the
scope and the impact of different treatments.
Supporting information
S1 Appendix. Pre-registration protocol at open science framework. Protocol developed by
the researchers following the Open Science Framework guidelines.
(DOCX)
S2 Appendix. Eligibility criteria. List of the eligibility criteria used to assess the articles for
inclusion.
(DOCX)
S3 Appendix. String of search. Full string of search implemented in PUBMED. The string of
search was adapted to each database.
(DOCX)
S4 Appendix. Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses exten-
sion for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR) checklist. Checklist completed by the researchers
following PRISMA guidelines.
(DOCX)
Author Contributions
Conceptualization: Stefanella Costa-Cordella, Aitana Grasso-Cladera, Javiera Duarte, Claudia
P. Cortes.
Data curation: Stefanella Costa-Cordella.
Formal analysis: Stefanella Costa-Cordella, Aitana Grasso-Cladera.
PLOS ONE
Internet-based peer support interventions for PLWHA
PLOS ONE | https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0269332 August 30, 2022 10 / 17
Funding acquisition: Alejandra Rossi, Claudia P. Cortes.
Investigation: Stefanella Costa-Cordella, Aitana Grasso-Cladera.
Methodology: Stefanella Costa-Cordella, Aitana Grasso-Cladera, Javiera Duarte.
Project administration: Stefanella Costa-Cordella.
Resources: Stefanella Costa-Cordella.
Supervision: Stefanella Costa-Cordella, Alejandra Rossi, Claudia P. Cortes.
Validation: Stefanella Costa-Cordella.
Visualization: Stefanella Costa-Cordella, Aitana Grasso-Cladera.
Writing original draft: Stefanella Costa-Cordella, Aitana Grasso-Cladera.
Writing review & editing: Stefanella Costa-Cordella, Aitana Grasso-Cladera, Alejandra
Rossi, Javiera Duarte, Flavia Guiñazu, Claudia P. Cortes.
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