Fighting AIDS with Facebook and Twitter

Published: December 15, 2014

Robin Wulffson, M.D.
Original Article:

A new study by researchers at the UCLA AIDS Institute and Center for AIDS Research reported that social media such as Twitter and Facebook, combined with behavioral psychology, might have value for the fight against AIDS by encouraging high-risk individuals to be tested for the disease. It was published online on December 15 in the journal The Lancet HIV.

The researchers conducted a study in which half the subjects participated in an intervention, called Harnessing Online Peer Education (HOPE); it was conducted in Peru among men who have sex with men. It found that men in the intervention arm of the study were more than twice as likely to be tested for HIV than men who joined a social media group and received traditional HIV prevention services.

“This shows that it’s not just social media that got people to test, but the HOPE social media interventions and the psychological ingredients it used for changing behavior,” said Sean Young, PhD, MS, an assistant professor of family medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and executive director of the UCLA Center for Digital Behavior. He added, In other words, if you’re a public health organization or worker, don’t just think that throwing something on Facebook or Twitter will solve your problems and change people’s behaviors. Social media may be helpful, but the HOPE intervention was significantly more likely to change HIV testing behavior compared to traditional care through social media.”

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