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Northeast Node Announces Awarding of New Study: Using Social Media to Deliver HIV Self-Testing Kits and Link to Online PrEP Services

Despite accounting for only 6% of the US population, men who have sex with men (MSM) account for 53% of all people living with HIV. The targeted promotion of HIV self-testing and simplified access to test kits and PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) medication is a promising approach to HIV prevention among this high-risk population.

Online services are increasingly becoming a platform for efficiently delivering public health campaigns and targeting those in need who may be missed by other conventional forms of prevention outreach (e.g. physicians).

The proposed study aims are to:

  • Adapt existing social media-based HIV self-testing and PrEP advertising materials for digital distribution on social media and informational sites
  • Compare the relative effectiveness of using popular social media sites like Facebook, Grindr, and Hornet versus commonly used information sites like Google (where individuals are searching for relevant informational content) to promote HIV home self-testing and PrEP uptake.
    We will also determine how substance use modifies key outcomes such as HIV testing and PrEP uptake.

Two hundred MSM will be recruited to participate in this study via web-based enrollment, allowing for a geographically diverse study population. A study website and social media ads will be developed by collaborators from YTH.org, a health and technology-based design corporation.

HIV infection results in substantial personal, societal, and financial costs at a global scale. This preventable public health issue can be addressed by harnessing the infrastructure of social media services and using those platforms to deliver cost-effective prevention interventions such as HIV testing and PrEP to large numbers of individuals.

This study will be led by Dr. Jeffrey Klausner of UCLA in collaboration with Dr. Sean Young of UCLA, and Dr. Lisa Marsch of the Northeast Node.