Prevention Collaborative Update

As part of our ongoing efforts to better understand how to use social media to promote HIV resources on social media, we distributed an anonymous, online survey in March and April of 2019. The goal of the survey was to gather data on users’ preferences regarding the use of social media to see and find health information. The survey utilized convenience sampling, with a link shared on Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, and Tumblr by way of individual posts, direct messaging, and promoted advertisements.

The survey had over 100 respondents. This blog post focuses on an analysis of the 26 gay men and 7 bisexual men (self-identified) who responded to the survey. Among this subsample, 70% of the participants identified as white, 15% identified as black/African American, and 15% identified as Hispanic/Latino. 52% were between the ages of 18 and 24 years old and 52% indicated that they lived in New York. Approximately 82% disclosed that they were HIV negative, 9% disclosed that they were HIV positive, and 9% disclosed that they were unaware of their HIV status.

The most preferred social media platform among this subsample was Instagram, followed by Facebook and Reddit. 97% of participants used social media for at least one hour a day and 55% used social media for more than three hours a day. Ninety percent stated that they have seen information about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) on social media, but 52% had not seen information about post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and 52% had not seen the phrase “undetectable equals untransmittable” (“U=U”). While 78% stated that they find the information they have seen on social media to be at least slightly truthful, we have no way to ascertain the actual truthfulness of the information they are seeing.

Sixty-one percent of the participants indicated that they were open to seeing comic book stories about HIV and sexual health. The six sexual health topics that the participants preferred to see were:

  • Free or inexpensive healthcare resources
  • PrEP/PEP information
  • Locations and hours of HIV/STD testing facilities
  • Understanding sexual history and how it affects you
  • Reducing the risk of getting HIV/STDs
  • Discussing HIV and STDs with partners

This study indicates that there is an opportunity to reach men who have sex with men on social media platforms. Planned initiatives may benefit from encouraging men who have sex with men to share, follow, and talk about sexual health on social media and they may also benefit from incorporating more information about PEP and the meaning of “U=U.” Comic book-style posts such as our Instagram feed are effective and we will take into consideration that stories may benefit from incorporating additional sexual health resources and tips about sexual history and safe sex.


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