Continuous prevention efforts for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) are recommended among those men who have sex with men (MSM). Creative use of e-technologies coupled with a better understanding of social networks could lead to improved health interventions among this risk population.
The aims of the study were to (1) compare the impact of various advertising strategies on recruiting MSM participants to an online HIV/AIDS survey, and (2) explore the feasibility of using a social network service (SNS) for study advertising.
A cross-sectional online survey was conducted in 2009. South Australian men over 18 years were invited to participate if they had had sexual intercourse with men in the previous year. A short questionnaire was used to collect demographics and information on sexual behavior, HIV history, use of the Internet for dating purposes, and sources of health information. The survey was promoted in community settings and online, including advertisements through social networks.
A total of 243 men completed the online survey during the 8-week data collection period. Online advertisements recruited 91.7% (220/240) of the sample. Conversely, traditional advertisements in the community recruited only 5.8% (14/240) of the sample. Ten volunteers were asked to advertise on their personal SNS application, but only 2 effectively did so. Only 18/240 (7.5%) of the respondents reported having learned of our study through the SNS application. In this sample, 19.3% (47/243) of participants had never been tested for HIV. Among the participants who had been tested, 12.8% (25/196) reported being HIV-positive. Regarding Internet use, 82.3% (200/243) of participants had dated online in the previous 6 months. Among the participants who had dated online, most (175/200, 87.5%) had found an Internet sexual partner and two-thirds (132/200, 66.0%) had had anal sex with these partner(s). Among men who had anal sex with an Internet partner, 68.2% (90/132) used a condom during sex.
The MSM participants in this study had high-risk profiles for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), which highlights the need for ongoing health interventions among this group. In this study, the SNS marketing strategy did not appear to create a viral effect and it had a relatively poor yield.
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