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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Project HOPE: online social network changes in an HIV prevention randomized controlled trial for African American and Latino men who have sex with men.

  • Author(s): Young, Sean D
  • Holloway, Ian
  • Jaganath, Devan
  • Rice, Eric
  • Westmoreland, Drew
  • Coates, Thomas
  • et al.

We examined whether and how an HIV prevention diffusion-based intervention spread throughout participants' online social networks and whether changes in social network ties were associated with increased HIV prevention and testing behaviors.We randomly assigned 112 primarily racial/ethnic minority men who have sex with men (MSM) to receive peer-delivered HIV (intervention) or general health (control) information over 12 weeks through closed Facebook groups. We recorded participants' public Facebook friend networks at baseline (September 2010) and follow-up (February 2011), and assessed whether changes in network growth were associated with changes in health engagement and HIV testing.Within-group ties increased in both conditions from baseline to follow-up. Among the intervention group, we found a significant positive relation between increased network ties and using social media to discuss sexual behaviors. We found a positive trending relationship between increased network ties and likelihood of HIV testing, follow-up for test results, and participation in online community discussions. No significant differences were seen within control groups.Among high-risk MSM, peer-led social media HIV prevention interventions can increase community cohesion. These changes appear to be associated with increased HIV prevention and testing behaviors.

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