A new study has found that using social media websites such as Facebook to educate people over ways to prevent sexually transmitted infection can promote use of condoms among young adults.
The study published in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine said that social media might provide a viable alternative to promote safe sex using online networks of friends.
"The use of social media to influence sexual risk behavior in the short term is novel. It is a first step in considering how to reach the overwhelming numbers of youth online, and how to maximize approaches to technology-based interventions," said lead investigator Sheana S. Bull.
Researchers initially recruited study participants in community settings and through postings on popular blogs and websites, as well as advertisements in college and local papers in US cities with higher than average rates for STI and HIV.
Recruitment focused on African-American and Latino youth given the disparity of infections between these groups and other young adults.
The results of the study showed success in recruitment of youth of color and youth living in geographic regions with high STI and HIV prevalence, and success in reaching large numbers of people with STI- and HIV-related content through Facebook.
According to the study, the approaches like creating a Facebook community to promote sexual health, offer one way to get messages in front of a large number of youth.
Dr. Bull notes that the study relied on self-reporting, and condom use may have been over-reported. Another concern is that the number of active participants declined over time, as did the treatment effect.
"Although this type of attrition has been documented in other online STI-related research, it underscores the need to redouble efforts to attract and engage higher-risk youth in prevention efforts using social media. Future work should explore approaches to keep audiences engaged in social media content related to sexual health," she concluded.
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