Developing and Testing Internet-Based Mindfulness Intervention to Reduce Minority Stress and Promote HIV-Related Behavioral Health Among Young Adult Sexual Minority Men: An Open Pilot

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    Brown University
Updated on 15 October 2022
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The overall aim of the research study is to develop and test a mindfulness-based program for young adult gay, bisexual, and queer men at risk for HIV (Brown University IRB approved protocol #2004002698). Researchers have completed Aim 1 of the broader study, which was to use qualitative, community engaged methods, along with a quantitative online survey, to inform intervention development with the study population. The next phase of the intervention development (Aim 2 - registered here), involves seeking feedback on the developed mindfulness program through an open-pilot with 18 participants from the same study population (young adult gay, bisexual, and queer men at risk for HIV).


In 2017, gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) made up 70% of new HIV infections in the U.S., and young adult MSM (age 18-34; YMSM) account for the majority of HIV cases. YMSM also experience prevalent, often co-occurring mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and substance use, creating a "syndemic" condition surrounding HIV risk and suboptimal HIV testing.

A key driver of such disparities experienced by YMSM is minority stress. Experiences of identity-based discrimination lead to internalized stigma and maladaptive coping (e.g., emotion dysregulation, avoidant coping, impulsivity) The "downstream" effects of minority stress are poor mental health (depression and anxiety), increased sexual risk, and lack of engagement in key health services such as HIV testing due to anxiety related to identity disclosure to providers and anticipation of stigmatizing encounters. Recent evidence also suggests discrimination exposure is linked to heightened physiological stress response (cortisol level) that represents depletion of coping resources and increased risk for development of stress-linked psychological disorders (depression, anxiety). Therefore, reducing minority stress represents a promising transdiagnostic approach to reduce the burden of HIV and mental health issues experienced by YMSM.

Research suggests that Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs) target mechanisms relevant to minority stress, including self-acceptance, emotional dysregulation, and avoidant coping. Therefore, as an individual-level intervention, MBIs may serve as an innovative HIV prevention intervention by lowering the syndemic risk among YMSM through reducing psychological symptoms, improving coping, and enhancing HIV-related behavioral health. However, no evidence-based MBIs have been tested for HIV prevention, and clinical and research evidence suggests further adaptation is warranted to improve its relevance and optimize engagement for YMSM.

This study aims to develop an internet-delivered MBI to address minority stress and its negative HIV-related health consequences experienced by YMSM. Specifically, the researchers propose to adapt, refine, and pilot-test an evidence-based MBI, Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR), to promote mental and sexual health and HIV testing engagement among distressed, high-risk YMSM. Aims 1-3 will support the subsequent production and evaluation of the adapted intervention. To maximize reach, scalability, and availability to a population that experience challenges seeking in-person counseling and health services, the intervention will also be adapted for internet-based delivery.

Aim 1. (Previously Completed) Adapt MBSR for distressed, high-risk YMSM using internet delivery, guided by the ADAPT-ITT model. Researchers conducted iterative phases of formative research including online-based focus groups with YMSM, solicitation of feedback from stakeholders, and revision of intervention protocols. This process resulted in the first-draft of an internet-delivered, mindfulness-based intervention protocol for use with YMSM, known as "Mindfulness-Based Queer Resilience (MBQR)".

Aim 2. (This is the focus of this Clinical Trial Registration) Refine intervention protocol by administering adapted materials to distressed, high-risk YMSM (n=18) through internet-based open pilot and gather feedback. Following integration of feedback, this process will result in a finalized protocol of an internet-delivered, mindfulness-based intervention protocol for YMSM.

Aim 3. (Future research) Examine the feasibility and acceptability of an internet-delivered mindfulness-based intervention (iMBI) for HIV prevention. A sample of 40 distressed, high-risk YMSM will be randomized into the adapted iMBI or an active control condition. Primary outcome with be intervention feasibility and acceptability. Secondary outcomes will include HIV testing willingness, self-reported sexual risk behaviors, psychological health, stress biomarker and minority stress and coping. The study will examine recruitment and retention, number of sessions attended, self-reported at-home practice of mindfulness, completion of assessment, and acceptability of the intervention.

Condition HIV, Minority Stress, Mental Health Wellness 1
Treatment Mindfulness-Based Queer Resilience (MBQR)
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT05540652
SponsorBrown University
Last Modified on15 October 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Assigned male at birth
Being 18 to 34 years of age
Identify as a cisgender man
Reside in the United States
Can read and speak in English
Engaged in condomless anal sex with another man in the past 6-months
Endorse distress, measured by the PHQ-9 and GAD-7
Possess a device (phone, tablet, computer) that allows for online conferencing
HIV-negative or status unknown (self-report)

Exclusion Criteria

Participants will be excluded from the study if they are determined to
have symptoms preventing them from giving meaningful consent or study activities such as
Significant cognitive impairment
Imminent suicidal risk
Substance abuse
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