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Social Media as an Effective Tool for Preventing STD and HIV Infection

Facebook and other social networking technologies could serve as effective tools for preventing HIV infection among at-risk groups, new UCLA research suggests

 

In a study published in the February issue of the peer-reviewed journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases, researchers found that African American and Latino men who have sex with men voluntarily used health-related Facebook groups, which were created by the study's investigators, to discuss such things as HIV knowledge, stigma and prevention and ultimately to request at-home HIV testing kits.

"Researchers, policymakers and public health professionals are hoping that social media can be used as a tool for improving health research and solving health and HIV prevention-related issues," said principal investigator Sean Young, an assistant professor of family medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "This study helps direct us toward that goal by suggesting that participants will use social media to learn about HIV prevention and that those who talk about HIV prevention over social networking groups are not just talking about it -- they are acting on their words by getting an HIV test."

The study also demonstrates that social networking can be a useful tool for collecting and analyzing data, added Young, who is a member of the Center for HIV Identification, Prevention and Treatment Services (CHIPTS) at UCLA.

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