September 9, 2013

Original Research | 3 September 2013

Sean D. Young, PhD, MS; William G. Cumberland, PhD; Sung-Jae Lee, PhD; Devan Jaganath, MPH; Greg Szekeres, BA; and Thomas Coates, PhD

[+-] Article and Author Information

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

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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