Using social media for community and partnership development to prevent the spread of HIV amongst gay and other MSM living in regional and rural Central Queensland, Australia
C. Clementson1, K. Bishop2, T. Spratling2
1Queensland Association for Healthy Communities, Sexual Health Program, Eagle Farm BC, Australia, 2Queensland Association for Healthy Communities, Sexual Health Program, Maroochydore, Australia
The Central Coast office of the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC) covers a large geographic area in regional and rural Australia from Caboolture in the southeast to Rockhampton in the far north, a distance of over 600 km. HIV prevention and sexual health promotion for gay and other men who have sex with men (msm) is the project focus. As a community-based organisation with limited financial and human resources the challenge is reaching these men in ways that are appropriate to their lives in regional and rural communities.
As HIV prevention for gay men is most effective when delivered in the context of broader gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) health and wellbeing, much work is about community and partnership development. This has included using social media to implement health promotion activities and for enhancing community connectedness and individual resilience for those living in regional Queensland where stigma and discrimination about sexuality and HIV status remains prevalent.
The social media tools used across the region to connect with the LGBT community, that incorporates gay and other msm, include dedicated websites, Facebook groups and online and printed magazines.
With over 10,000 hits on each regional website since their inception, 324 Facebook friends and over 1,000 magazines printed bi-monthly, these social media tools have become increasingly effective in reaching this isolated community within Central Queensland.
A key component of this success has been the partnerships developed with local service providers and private businesses that provide media content, paid advertising, distribution outlets and supportive spaces for this community.
This presentation will discuss the particular challenges in reaching men in non-metropolitan communities where internalised as well as actual HIV/homophobia limits contact with health promoting environments and how social media creates supportive environments to overcome these challenges.