Research & Insights

Using Social Media Can Help Reach Vulnerable Communities

By Jaclyn Ramos

Omar Martinez, Elwin Wu, Andrew Z. Shultz, Javier López Rios, Theo Sandfort, Justin Manusov, Alex Carballo-Dieguez and Robert H. Remien, Columbia University
Jonathan Capote, AID for AIDS International
Hugo Ovejero, Latino Commission on AIDS
Silvia Chavez Baray and Eva Moya, University of Texas at El Paso
Jonathan López Matos and Juan J. DelaCruz, The City University of New York
Scott D. Rhodes, Wake fores University School of Medicine

Groups trying to recruit gay Latinos for health prevention campaigns might have more success with social networks than other forms of communication.

According to a new study social media platforms such as Facebook and Craigslist, as well as all-male social networks such as Grindr and Scruff, are making it easier to target Latino men who have sex with men (MSM) for HIV prevention interventions. The study was published in the April 2014 issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

The researchers recruited a total of 28 participants (14 couples) for participation in a pilot HIV prevention program. To discover what types of recruitment strategies were best for reaching the gay Latino population, the researchers placed messages on social networking sites like Facebook, Jack’d, Grindr, Twitter and Craigslist. They also placed ads in community locations popular in the gay Latino community and distributed information through community organizations.

The researchers found that Facebook proved to be the best tool for recruiting participants. Facebook’s statistical tools let researchers see how many men they were reaching, and the ability to link to other organizations involved in HIV prevention, such as the Hispanic AIDS Awareness Program, was particularly useful.

The researchers concluded that Spanish-speaking gay Latino men who are less assimilated to the US culture are more likely to form networks through social media. “[These networks] go beyond ‘joining a group’ and expand into online social ties that in turn translate into social integration, informational support, communication, and engagement,” the researchers write. As the men began to feel part of a group, the participants felt comfortable discussing personal topics such as HIV disclosure and sexual health with their partners.

“Our findings underscore the importance of social media ties and interactions in the development of programs and interventions to improve health outcomes,” the researchers note.

Journal of Medical Internet Research

Jaclyn Ramos is a staff writer for frankology and a fifth-year Sociology student at the University of Florida. Follow her on Twitter.

Posted: December 28, 2015
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