How to Get High Risk Men to Submit to HIV Testing: Use Social Media

Social media has become very prevalent in modern society, so why not put it to good use? A recent study showed that one such good use could be to help people exhibit more medically safe behaviors. In this particular study, the focus was on men who are at high risk to contract HIV.

Researchers got more than 100 sexually active homosexual males to participate in the study. They used ads on social networking sites to recruit these volunteers. The men were divided into two groups. Half of the men were placed in an HIV intervention group on Facebook. The other half was placed into a group that discussed health in general. Within each group, designated peer leaders chatted with members of the group, sent them direct messages, and posted on their Facebook walls.

The HIV group discussed matters that directly related to the disease, such as the importance of getting tested, and how to reduce risk by altering behaviors. The group that focused on general health stuck to topics such as nutrition and exercise. The study continued for 12 weeks, and despite the fact that there was nothing binding the men to keep up with the groups, the men as a group did and many participated regularly throughout the study.

At the beginning and end of the study, each participant was encourage to perform an at-home self-test for HIV as well as fill out a survey dealing with various topics related to the disease. What were the results?

The men in the HIV group proved more than twice as likely to take the HIV test. Even more astounding was that men in the HIV group were over 4 times more likely to take the survey. Those in the HIV group were also more active in chats and other group activities.

Clearly this study showed that social media can have benefits in affecting the behavior of those at risk for HIV, encouraging them both to take preventative measures and to be tested more regularly.