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Original Research |

Social Networking Technologies as an Emerging Tool for HIV Prevention: A Cluster Randomized Trial

Sean D. Young, PhD, MS; William G. Cumberland, PhD; Sung-Jae Lee, PhD; Devan Jaganath, MPH; Greg Szekeres, BA; and Thomas Coates, PhD
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

From the David Geffen School of Medicine and School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California.

Acknowledgment: The authors thank Sheana Bull, PhD, and Simon Rosser, PhD, for their feedback on the study.

Grant Support: By the UCLA Center for HIV Intervention, Prevention and Treatment Services and UCLA AIDS Institute (AI 028697). Dr. Young was also supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (K01 MH 090884).

Potential Conflicts of Interest: Disclosures can be viewed at www.acponline.org/authors/icmje/ConflictOfInterestForms.do?msNum=M13-0422.

Reproducible Research Statement: Study protocol: Available from Dr. Young (e-mail, sdyoung@mednet.ucla.edu). Statistical code and data set: Not available.

Requests for Single Reprints: Sean D. Young, PhD, MS, Department of Family Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, 10880 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 1800, Los Angeles, CA 90024; e-mail, sdyoung@mednet.ucla.edu.

Current Author Addresses: Dr. Young: Department of Family Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, 10880 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 1800, Los Angeles, CA 90024.

Dr. Cumberland: Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, Community Health Sciences, Room 51-236B, Los Angeles, CA 90095.

Dr. Lee: Department of Psychiatry, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, 10920 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 350, Los Angeles, CA 90024.

Mr. Jaganath, Mr. Szekeres, and Dr. Coates: David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, 9911 Pico Boulevard, Suite 955, Los Angeles, CA 90035.

Author Contributions: Conception and design: S.D. Young, W.G. Cumberland, G. Szekeres, T. Coates.

Analysis and interpretation of the data: S.D. Young, W.G. Cumberland, S.J. Lee.

Drafting of the article: S.D. Young, S.J. Lee, G. Szekeres.

Critical revision of the article for important intellectual content: S.D. Young, W.G. Cumberland, D. Jaganath, G. Szekeres, T. Coates.

Final approval of the article: S.D. Young, W.G. Cumberland, S.J. Lee, D. Jaganath, G. Szekeres, T. Coates.

Provision of study materials or patients: S.D. Young.

Statistical expertise: W.G. Cumberland, S.J. Lee.

Obtaining of funding: S.D. Young.

Administrative, technical, or logistic support: W.G. Cumberland, D. Jaganath.

Collection and assembly of data: S.D. Young, D. Jaganath.

Ann Intern Med. 2013;159(5):318-324. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-159-5-201309030-00005
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Chinese translation

Background: Social networking technologies are an emerging tool for HIV prevention.

Objective: To determine whether social networking communities can increase HIV testing among African American and Latino men who have sex with men (MSM).

Design: Randomized, controlled trial with concealed allocation. (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT01701206)

Setting: Online.

Patients: 112 MSM based in Los Angeles, more than 85% of whom were African American or Latino.

Intervention: Sixteen peer leaders were randomly assigned to deliver information about HIV or general health to participants via Facebook groups over 12 weeks. After participants accepted a request to join the group, participation was voluntary. Group participation and engagement were monitored. Participants could request a free, home-based HIV testing kit and completed questionnaires at baseline and 12-week follow-up.

Measurements: Participant acceptance of and engagement in the intervention and social network participation, rates of home-based HIV testing, and sexual risk behaviors.

Results: Almost 95% of intervention participants and 73% of control participants voluntarily communicated using the social platform. Twenty-five of 57 intervention participants (44%) requested home-based HIV testing kits compared with 11 of 55 control participants (20%) (difference, 24 percentage points [95% CI, 8 to 41 percentage points]). Nine of the 25 intervention participants (36%) who requested the test took it and mailed it back compared with 2 of the 11 control participants (18%) who requested the test. Retention at study follow-up was more than 93%.

Limitation: Only 2 Facebook communities were included for each group.

Conclusion: Social networking communities are acceptable and effective tools to increase home-based HIV testing among at-risk populations.

Primary Funding Source: National Institute of Mental Health.




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