Condoms are an important part of preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), however, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, only 24.8 percent of unmarried men and 21.3 percent of unmarried women use condoms every time they have sex. This leaves many people unprotected against STDs.
The question of how to increase the use of condoms spurred a study using social media as a way to spread information on safe sex practices. The study was published in the November, 2012 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Researchers recruited young adults in areas with higher than average rates of STDs, such as college campuses. Each person who volunteered was asked to recruit 3 more people, down to five levels of recruiting.
The participants were randomly placed into two groups. One group (942 participants) signed up to receive news from Just/Us, a Facebook community promoting sexual health. The second group (636 participants) signed up to receive news from a Facebook community called 18-24 News.
- Just/Us promoted a new topic about sexual health each week, including topics on communicating about sexual history, negotiating condom use and where to find STD testing. Daily follow-ups included videos, quizzes, blogs and questions participants could comment on.
- 18-24 News promoted news stories that would be of interest to this age group.
The results of the study showed that those individuals receiving daily and weekly information about safe sex and condom use used condoms more often. When the participants were surveyed two months after the intervention, 68 percent of those in the Just/Us group indicated they had used a condom during their last sexual encounter, compared to 56 percent of the 18-24 News group. The Just/Us group also reported a higher consistency of using condoms, saying they used condoms 63 percent of the time. The 18-24 News group indicated condoms were used 57 percent of the time. Unfortunately, 6 months after the intervention, there was virtually no difference in condom use between the two groups.
The study showed short-term improvement in the use of condoms and raise the possibility of reaching youth on the importance of condom use and safe sex practices but also showed that as time went on, participants lost interest. As the number of active participants declined, so did the effect. In other words, while messages were being received on a daily basis, young adults listened, but once those messages stopped, their effect disappeared. The researchers believe that this is a way to reach young adults at-risk of STDs, but efforts need to be consistent and engaging for longer periods of time.
“Key Statistics from the National Survey of Family Growth,” Updated 2012, Aug. 14, Staff Writer, Center for Disease Control and Prevention/National Center for Health Statistics
“ ‘Like this Page’ to Prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections,” 2012, Oct 9, Staff Writer, University of Denver, Department of Community and Behavioral Health at the Colorado School of Public Health
Published On: October 16, 2012