Sexual Health news - Sexual Health and Behavior

Researchers use Facebook to promote condom use

Public health officials are constantly looking for new ways to reach out to the young adult population about sexual health. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and genital herpes, are widespread in the U.S. and can be prevented with simple measures like using condoms for every sexual act an individual participates in. Especially with STDs such as antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea spreading around the world, it's more important than ever to practice safe sex.

According to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Facebook messages relaying information about STDs may be an effective way to encourage the use of condoms and other contraceptives among young adults. Researchers from the Department of Community and Behavioral Health at the Colorado School of Public Health assigned more than 600 participants to sign up on Facebook to "Like" and receive updates from Just/Us, a community of the social networking site that promotes sexual health. Another 942 individuals were instructed to "Like" a control page called "18-24 News," which sent them current nightly news reports that were relevant to the age group.

The study's investigators found that nearly 70 percent of individuals in the Just/Us group reported using a condom after they began participating in the study, compared to 56 percent of those who were in the control group. These results indicate a positive short-term effect of sexual education communicated through social media. In particular, the researchers were successfully able to recruit youth of color and those living in areas that have high STD and HIV rates.

"The use of social media to influence sexual risk behavior in the short term is novel," said Sheana Bull, Ph.D., the study's lead investigator. "It is a first step in considering how to reach the overwhelming numbers of youth online, and how to maximize approaches to technology-based interventions."