Sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention messages delivered by Facebook can be effective in promoting condom use among young adults in the short term, a new study has found.
Few students and young adults receive comprehensive sexuality education or guidance on HIV and other STI risks. Social media may provide a viable alternative to promote safe sex using online networks of friends, the study published in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reports.
''The use of social media to influence sexual risk behaviour 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,'' says lead investigator Sheana S Bull, PhD, MPH, of the department of community and behavioural Health at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
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.
Each recruit was given an incentive to recruit three friends to participate, and each new recruit was also incentivised to recruit three friends, for five recruitment waves.
Participants and those they recruited were randomly assigned as a network to either an intervention group or a control group. The intervention group signed up to ''Like'' and receive news from Just/Us, a Facebook community developed to promote sexual health.