Study highlights pros and cons of online social networks for sexual health information of homeless youth
Tapping into young people's use of online social networks presents health agencies with a powerful opportunity to help control the rise in HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in homeless youth in Los Angeles. According to new research by Sean Young from UCLA and Eric Rice from USC in the US, online social networking - and the topics discussed on these networks - have the potential to affect sexual risk behaviors. Targeting homeless youths with sexual health messages, by exploiting their use of these networks, is likely to be an effective way to reach and influence them to reduce sexual risk behaviors. The study is published online in Springer's journal AIDS and Behavior.
The rise in usage of online social networks among young people makes it easier for them to find sex partners online. Homeless youths are at higher risk of HIV than other adolescents in the US. In order to promote healthy sexual behaviors and prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), it is important to understand the role that online social networking technologies play in the lives of these young people who face disproportionate risk.
A total of 201 youths, recruited at a drop-in agency serving homeless youth in Los Angeles, California, took part in the survey. The young people were asked about their use of the Internet and online social networks - including their topics of conversation online, their sexual risk behaviors, their lifetime history of testing for STIs, and their knowledge about HIV and STIs.