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Using Social Media to Deliver HIV Self-Testing Kits and Link to Online PrEP Services

Funding Source

NIDA Clinical Trials Network (Office of AIDS Research), CTN-0083

Project Period

6/1/2018 - 5/31/2021

Principal Investigator

Jeffrey D. Klausner, MD, MPH (University of California, Los Angeles) 

Other Project Staff

Lisa A. Marsch, PhD (CTN Node PI; Senior Mentor; Co-I; Northeast Node), Sean Young, PhD (Co-I; UCLA), Bethany McLeman (Northeast Node), Gabriella Vavala (UCLA, Research Assistant), Petra Jacobs, PhD (NIH Project Scientist), Chrysovalantis Stafylis (Project Coordinator; UCLA)

Cara Silva (ETR), Erin McKelle (ETR)

Project Summary

Despite only accounting for 6% of the US population, men who have sex with men (MSM) account for 53% of all living people with HIV. The targeted promotion of HIV self-testing and simplified access to test kits and PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) medication is a promising approach to HIV prevention among this high-risk population. Online services are increasingly becoming a platform for efficiently delivering public health campaigns and targeting those in need who may be missed by other conventional forms of prevention outreach (e.g. physicians). In this study, MSM between 18-30 years old will receive culturally-relevant advertisements targeting minorities similar to those previously developed. The proposed study aims are to: 1) adapt existing social media-based HIV self-testing and PrEP advertising materials for digital distribution on social media and informational sites; and 2) compare the relative effectiveness of using popular social media sites like Facebook, Grindr, and Hornet versus commonly used information sites like Google to promote HIV self-testing and PrEP uptake.

Public Health Relevance

HIV infection results in a substantial personal, societal, and financial cost at a global scale. This preventable public health issue can be addressed by harnessing the preexisting infrastructure of massive social media services. Those platforms may be utilized to deliver cost-effective empirically established prevention interventions such as testing and PrEP or viral load suppression to thousands of users. The ability to target online outreach to those with increased risk for HIV infection allows for the conduct of an experiment to determine best practices for how and when to use the different types of sites to promote HIV biomedical prevention services and understand how modifiers like substance use and psychological state impacts prevention uptake.