On April 1, The Prevention Collaborative launched the first of two new serialized stories for our project “Heads or Tails” through Instagram and Facebook. The first story describes the experience of Travis and his boyfriend Javier, a serodiscordant young couple of color navigating issues of HIV status disclosure in the context of a romantic relationship. The story is based on the experience of young men who have sex with men (YMSM). To develop the story and the characters we conducted focus groups among YMSM of color at two community-based organizations, the AIDS Center of Queens County and Pride for Youth. Through this outreach strategy, we aim to connect YMSM of color with NLM HIV/AIDS resources in a format and platform with which they can relate based on their feedback.
Since April 1, we have posted 32 images associated with the story of Travis and Javier. Almost 1,200 individuals follow our accounts at Instagram and Facebook, @heads_or_tails_nyc. The images posted have elicited more than 1,700 likes and 50 comments. Followers’ comments give us the opportunity to further interact with individuals, respond to questions, provide health information, and direct them to critical NLM resources. Our engagement rate with the images posted is 99.8%, which means that almost all our posts have elicited some form of engagement. Through this strategy, thousands of Instagram and Facebook users have been exposed to the story and to NLM HIV/AIDS resources, which are featured in image captions.
To further engage YMSM of color we have hired two peer navigators, who have set up project-specific accounts for the purposes of outreach and engagement: @hott_brandon and @hott_dennis. The navigators will respond to questions from users and provide specific information depending on the needs of the users, connecting them at all times with NLM HIV/AIDS resources. The navigators also post images in their accounts associated with specific NLM resources that align with the content of Travis and Javier’s story. Together the two navigators have reached over 2,000 users at Instagram and Facebook. Feel free to connect with our peer navigators, and to share this resource with others!
We are very excited about this outreach strategy. Our experience suggests that this form of intervention can be effective for the purpose of reaching to at-risk populations with the critical need for health information and resources. The success in the implementation requires a systematic process to ensure that: 1) the stories and characters emerge from the target communities through a participatory process; 2) the peer navigators can relate with the target population, use their language and culture, be likable, and respond to concerns of the users; 3) outcomes are being monitored and evaluated; and 4) users are being actively engaged in NLM resources aligned with the objectives.
Research indicates that YMSM of color primarily uses social media platforms and mobile technology as a source of sexual health information, communication, and networking purposes. We can be effective in reaching this and other critical populations if we match their communication realities. Social media sites like Instagram and Facebook represent a great opportunity to meet YMSM where they are and to connect them with sexual health resources. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook at @heads_or_tails_nyc to learn more!
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