New Study Ties Facebook Groups To Improved HIV Prevention

9-9-2013 9-53-01 PM

A study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and published in the September issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine studies the use of social networking technology as an emerging tool for HIV prevention.

The study followed a high-risk population of 112 homosexual men living in Los Angeles, of which 85 percent were African American or Latino. Volunteers were enrolled in one of two Facebook groups. The first was used to deliver HIV specific information, while the other provided general health and wellness information over a 12-week period. Engagement was monitored and effectiveness was measured based on the percent of users that requested and completed a free, home-based HIV testing kit by the conclusion of the study.

Researchers found that 95 percent of participants enrolled in the HIV-specific Facebook group voluntarily communicated using the platform compared to 73 percent in the control group. At the conclusion of the study, 44 percent of men enrolled in the HIV group had requested and completed an HIV testing kit compared to just 20 percent in the control group.

Researchers concluded that Facebook and other social media groups might offer a new, highly effective communication platform for distributing HIV specific material to at-risk populations, potentially leading to a measured increase in home-based HIV testing.

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