Date of Award

January 2014

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

School of Public Health

First Advisor

Trace Kershaw

Abstract

This study examined the use of social networking technologies (SNTs) and their potential utilization in HIV prevention interventions among HIV positive and HIV negative men who have sex with men (MSM). We conducted 5 focus groups and 1 individual interview of HIV positive and HIV negative individuals (total 34). All participants were recruited with the help of a local non–profit organization and through a Facebook event advertised in neighboring LGBT establishments.

MSM tend to compartmentalize and separate their gay social networks. SNTs are the main way in which MSM meet new sexual partners. Young MSM are high users and early adopters of new technologies. The most important obstacle to behavioral interventions using SNTs is concerns for privacy. Interventions must abide by an SNTs’ unwritten etiquette rules to gain legitimacy and support. Disclosure of HIV status is uncommon and often avoided; some HIV positive MSM now identify as being undetectable after successful viral load suppression, leading to an increase in risky sexual behaviors. HIV is simplified as a chronic disease that is easily manageable, creating problems for prevention. Overall, prevention messages using SNTs must be positive, upbeat, and transmitted through multiple modalities. The messages must go beyond a gay audience in order to reach the rest of the MSM population; this can be achieved by mixing the message with larger more acceptable marketing strategies.

SNTs can be promising tools for HIV prevention but future interventions must consider the main themes outlined in this study in order to ensure the success of their programs.

Comments

This is an Open Access Thesis.

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