Internet Use Among Ugandan Adolescents: Implications for HIV Intervention
December 7, 2006
The Internet is quickly becoming a low-cost, powerful method of delivering health intervention programs to sizeable numbers of people, especially youths, over diverse geographic regions, the authors of the current study noted. However, the feasibility and accessibility of such methods for resource-limited settings, where cost-effectiveness is greatly needed, is not known. Given that, researchers designed the current study to determine the usefulness of developing technology-based interventions for resource-poor settings. The accessibility and use patterns of the Internet need to be assessed first, they wrote.
Of 538 randomly chosen students ages 12-18 from five secondary schools in the rural municipality of Mbarara, Uganda, eligible for the cross-sectional "Uganda Media and You Survey," 500 (93 percent) participated.
Among respondents, 233 (45 percent) reported ever having used the Internet, 78 percent of them as recently as the previous week. Maternal education increased the odds of using the Internet. Almost two in five participants, 189 (38 percent), reported having used the Internet to search for health information. Over one-third, 173 (35 percent), had used the Internet or computer to search for HIV/AIDS information, and 102 (20 percent) had searched for sexual health information.
Participant use of the Internet or computer to search for HIV/AIDS information was significantly related to weekly Internet e-mailing; visiting chat rooms; and playing online games. In contrast, access to Internet through the school was inversely related to searching for HIV/AIDS information. If Internet access were free, 330 participants (66 percent) reported that they would search for HIV/AIDS prevention information.
"Both the desire to use, and the actual use of, the Internet to seek sexual health and HIV/AIDS information is high among secondary school students in Mbarara," researchers concluded. "The Internet may be a promising strategy to deliver low-cost HIV/AIDS risk reduction interventions in resource-limited settings with expanding Internet access."
Public Library of Science Medicine
11.2006; Vol. 3; No. 11: P. e433; Michele L. Ybarra; Julius Kiwanuka; Nneka Emanyonu; David R. Bangsberg