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Minnesota Groups Look at Social Media's Role in HIV Treatment Adherence

By Warren Tong

November 7, 2011

When it comes to HIV treatment adherence, remembering to take your meds is just half the battle. You also have to want to take them.

Nowadays, it's common for people on HIV treatment to receive text or email alerts reminding them it's time to take their meds. However, Keith Horvath, a researcher at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health, notes that psycho-social factors such as depression or drug use can cause individuals to miss doses despite the reminders. That's why he and other groups in Minnesota are trying new ways to help HIV-positive individuals keep up with their meds.

The Minnesota Daily reported:

Last spring, Horvath launched a pilot study to find how online support networks might motivate HIV patients to follow their medication regimens. He built a "Facebook-like" website, which allowed participants to network with other HIV-infected individuals.

The user feedback has been positive enough that Horvath is preparing to submit a grant proposal next semester to the National Institutes of Health for a larger study. ...

... Darin Rowles, director of case management at the Minnesota AIDS Project, said all of its programs use email to communicate with clients plus a fraction that use text messaging. But the best way to help patients is to meet in person. ...

... Positive Link, a program within the Minnesota AIDS Project for HIV-positive gay and bisexual men, has a "secret" Facebook page that roughly 50 of its 600 participants feel comfortable using, said Nick Schrott, a health educator with the program who is also HIV-positive.

As with any HIV support system -- or social media in general -- privacy is a big concern. Any reminders or posts related to HIV need to be kept private in order for the system to be successful. Moreover, Horvath realizes that those with access to social media technology are just a fraction of those who are positive.

Let's hope that with these new initiatives comes a good balance between mobile alerts, social media and face-to-face interaction, all while ensuring privacy concerns are addressed.

Warren Tong is the research editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.

Follow Warren on Twitter: @WarrenAtTheBody.


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