mHealth strategies related to HIV postexposure prophylaxis knowledge and access: Systematic literature review, technology prospecting of patent databases, and systematic search on app stores

Artur Acelino Francisco Luz Nunes Queiroz, Isabel Amélia Costa Mendes, Simone De Godoy, Luís Velez Lapão, Sónia Dias

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Globally, the number of HIV cases continue to increase, despite the development of multiple prevention strategies. New cases of HIV have been reported disproportionately more in men who have sex with men and other vulnerable populations. Issues such as internalized and structural homophobia prevent these men from accessing prevention strategies such as postexposure prophylaxis (PEP). Mobile health (mHealth) interventions are known to be one of the newest and preferred options to enhance PEP knowledge and access. Objective: The aim of this study was to identify and analyze the mobile apps addressing PEP for HIV infections. Methods: We conducted a descriptive exploratory study in 3 sequential phases: systematic literature review, patent analysis, and systematic search of app stores. For the systematic review, we followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines adapted for an integrative review in the databases of PubMed, Web of Knowledge, Scopus, Cochrane, Embase, Science Direct, Eric, Treasure, and CINAHL. The patent analysis was performed by exploring the databases of the Brazilian National Institute of Industrial Property, the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and the European Patent Office. For the systematic search, we analyzed mHealth apps related to HIV in 2 major app libraries, that is, Google Play Store and App Store. The apps were evaluated by name, characteristics, functions, and availability in iPhone operating system/Android phones. Results: We analyzed 22 studies, of which 2 were selected for the final stage. Both studies present the use of apps as mHealth strategies aimed at improving the sexual health of men who have sex with men, and they were classified as decision support systems. The search in the patent databases showed only 1 result, which was not related to the topic since it was a drug intervention. In the app libraries, 25 apps were found and analyzed, with 15 (60%) apps available for Android systems but only 3 (12%) addressing PEP. In general, the apps inform about HIV and HIV prevention and treatment, with the focus users being health care providers, people with HIV, or the general population, but they have only limited features available, that is, mainly text, images, and videos. The 3 apps exclusively focusing on PEP were created by researchers from Brazilian universities. Conclusions: Our review found no connection between the scientific studies, registered patents, and the available apps related to PEP; this finding indicates that these available apps do not have a theoretical or a methodological background in their creation. Thus, since the scientific knowledge on HIV is not translated into technological products, preventing the emergence of new infections, especially in the more vulnerable groups, is difficult. In the future, researchers and the community must work in synergy to create more mHealth tools aimed at PEP.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere23912
Number of pages13
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • EHealth
  • HIV
  • MHealth
  • Mobile phone
  • PEP
  • Postexposure prophylaxis
  • Prevention


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