Anniston Star (12.26.2013)
The Anniston Star reported that the Health Services Center (HSC)—a nonprofit organization that provided HIV testing, medical care, mental health care, case management, substance abuse treatment, and housing for people in 14 eastern Alabama counties—received a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant for an HIV/AIDS prevention program that incorporated social media platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. SAMHSA awarded $116,000 to 20 US organizations to implement programs that had a “large impact” on whole communities and focused on HIV “prevention for positive” programming that targeted HIV-infected people.
The social media project aimed to capitalize on recent Internet use trends. Of people who used the Internet, a 2011 Pew Research Center study indicated that 80 percent of teens and 48 percent of adults used social networking sites. A 2004 Pew Research Center study reported that 31 percent of teens surveyed sought health information on the Internet. HSC Director of Outreach/Education Julie Hope learned at a recent SAMHSA training that young people preferred health messages that were under two minutes in length and accompanied by video or photographs.
Hope stated that HSC would recruit up to 12 HIV-infected volunteers who would send out a specified number of anonymous prevention messages or personal stories via social media. To measure the program’s effectiveness, HSC would learn to “monitor the analytics and the metrics.” She believed HSC would be able to reach more people using social media than through individual prevention counseling for sexual and drug-using behavior, which was not cost-effective.