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Facebook Community Can Help Cut STIs

Young adults at risk for getting a sexually acquired infection were more likely to use a condom if they followed a social media's sex education campaign. Katherine Harmon reports

Facebook might be the way many young adults spread gossip about their latest hookups. But it might also turn out to be an effective means to limit the spread of sexually transmitted infections. Because new research finds increased condom use among those who “Facebook liked" a sexual health news source. 

Researchers recruited 18-to-24 year olds and had each recruit up to three friends. These clusters were asked randomly to "like" either an experimental news community promoting sexual health or a control community that provided general interest news for that age group. Of the 942 people following the sex health group for two months, 68 percent reported using a condom in their most recent sex act, compared with 56 percent in the control group. The findings are in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. [Sheana Bull et al., Social Media-Delivered Sexual Health Intervention: A clustered randomized controlled trial]

Previous attempts to make sex safer via Facebook social media campaigns have often failed, perhaps because they felt like a health class lesson. But public health researchers have not let that stop them from trying to make condom use more "likable"—at least in the digital realm.

—Katherine Harmon

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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