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A group of researchers is tapping into the power of social network sites to help spread their message about the importance of HIV testing to young people.
The UCLA team of investigators is focusing their efforts on homeless youths in the Los Angeles area. These individuals are significantly more likely to engage in risky sexual activity, and they are increasingly turning to online social network sites to find sexual partners.
While the increasing use of social networks among this group has enabled risky behavior, researchers also believe that it will enable them to reach these troubled youths.
After surveying more than 201 kids who sought assistance at a Los Angeles drop-in shelter, they found that many would be receptive to messages encouraging them to seek care for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV testing.
"Our findings suggest that online social networks are popular among homeless youth, and that they can be used as a tool for sexual health interventions," the authors conclude. "These networks could potentially increase sexual risk behaviors. They could also potentially decrease homeless youths' sexual risk behaviors."
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