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Facebook can Help Prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Update Date: Feb 07, 2013 08:05 AM EST

Facebook and Twitter can now do more than connect with friends and families: it can help prevent HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), a recent study finds.

The study was led by Sean Young, an assistant professor of family medicine, and co-authored by Devan Jaganath, a medical student both at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). It was published in the peer-reviewed journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

The study has found the social networking sites useful in preventing STDs among the groups that are most vulnerable to it. The researchers created health forums and found that African-American and Latino men who have male sexual partners use these pages to discuss various HIV-related issues like shame that they face, further information about HIV desired, and ways to avert it, as well as request Do-It-Yourself home HIV-testing kits. This type of open forum may also help people in resolving certain issues they are facing by interacting with others who can help them.

The social networking sites can also collect data about these diseases which will help in further analysis. In the research, the African-American and Latino men who have male sexual partners were enlisted as volunteers through various forms of advertisements. Totally, 112 participants, with 90 percent population being African-American or Latino with an average age of 31 years, were taken.

Since the research was based in Los Angeles, the result is not applicable for men around the world; however, it does open a possibility of using the social networking sites to create forums for discussion of STDs.

"Researchers, policymakers and public health professionals are hoping that social media can be used as a tool for improving health research and solving health and HIV prevention related issues. This study helps direct us toward that goal by suggesting that participants will use social media to learn about HIV prevention and that those who talk about HIV prevention over social networking groups are not just talking about it - they are acting on their words by getting an HIV test," Young said in a University news release.

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