Social media is an effective tool for HIV education and prevention programs, according to research from the Georgia State University School of Public Health.
By analyzing previous HIV health studies that employed social media, researchers found that social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter “were instrumental in recruiting hard-to-reach populations within a short amount of time; were able to reach wide audiences beyond the targeted population for HIV prevention campaigns; and helped to significantly reduce sexual risk behaviors and increase HIV testing.”
The results of the research are found in “A Review of HIV Prevention Studies that Use Social Networking Sites: Implications for Recruitment, Health Promotion Campaigns, and Efficacy Trials,” published recently in AIDS and Behavior. The paper’s authors are Mr. Jamal Jones, student at the School of Public Health, and Dr. Laura Salazar, associate professor of health promotion and behavior.
The authors initially reviewed more than 39,000 scholarly papers and studies to find those specifically describing how social media was used for various HIV prevention efforts. They narrowed their focus to 16 articles detailing 12 studies and campaigns in which social media was used primarily to disseminate HIV-related health information, increase HIV testing or reduce sexual risk-taking behavior among susceptible groups.
Three of the studies used social networking sites (SNS) to recruit candidates for various interventions, such as HIV prevention workshops. Four used social media channels for HIV-focused health promotion campaigns. The remaining five used social media as the primary mode for intervention delivery. For example, one study used Facebook to host a live chat about the dangers of unprotected sex and drug use aimed at young men who have sex with men.
“Engagement on multiple SNS platforms should be incorporated within interventions to enhance their impact and efficacy such as incorporating the direct messaging feature on Twitter with Facebook groups to engage the target population and disseminate HIV prevention information,” the researchers concluded.