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Peer-led Facebook groups are an acceptable and effective tool for increasing home-based HIV testing among at-risk populations. HIV infection is a major health concern for men who have sex with men (MSM), especially among African Americans and Latinos who have high rates of incident cases and new diagnoses. Online social networking has grown exponentially in this population, suggesting that social media platforms could be used to relay HIV prevention messages. This is important because those who seek sex online may be at increased risk for HIV.
Sixteen peer leaders were randomly assigned to deliver information about HIV (intervention, n = 57) or general health (control, n = 55) via closed Facebook groups to Los Angeles-based MSM, more than 85 percent of whom were African American or Latino. After accepting a request to join the group, participation was voluntary and all online interactions were monitored to assess participation and engagement. Throughout the trial, participants in either group could request a free, home-based HIV testing kit. Participation in messaging was high in both groups throughout the trial.
After 12 weeks, more intervention participants had requested an HIV testing kit than control participants (44 percent vs 20 percent, respectively). In both groups, the median number of sexual partners decreased during the trial.
"Social Networking Technologies as an Emerging Tool for HIV Prevention: A Cluster Randomized Trial" Sean D. Young, PhD, MS; William G. Cumberland, PhD; Sung-Jae Lee, PhD; Devan Jaganath, MPH; Greg Szekeres, BA; and Thomas Coates, PhD, Ann Intern Med. 2013;159(5):318-324. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-159-5-201309030-00005
Annals of Internal Medicine Sept. 3 2013
Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release. Click 'references' tab above for source.
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