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Commentary & Opinion

Take the Next Step in HIV Prevention; Minnesotans Should Lead the Way in Online Strategies

July 16, 2010

"In a letter to the editor published June 26, Curt Prins and John Schrom spotlighted Minnesota's alarming spike in new HIV infections in men under 30, then put a tough question to public health officials and Minnesota's AIDS advocacy organizations:

"In an era not only of digital communications but digital lifestyles, are traditional HIV prevention messages and mediums working?

"Like public health measures targeting smoking and obesity, HIV prevention is a message that must be repeated loudly and often.

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"But the challenge of reaching a younger at-risk audience is clear just a few minutes after sitting down with the fledgling group of activists now gathering around Schrom and Prins. Their laptops and smartphones are integral to their lives. And there's a new breed of websites that make it easier than ever to meet potential partners. One increasingly popular site called Grindr.com allows gay men to post profiles and then, using GPS technology, see on a map which of them is nearby.

"Clearly, pamphlets, dry fact sheets, and so-called ?youth summits' sponsored recently by some state organizations aren't going to cut it in this new information age. Instead, prevention information needs to be more accessible on the sites on which gay men are spending their time. The message also needs to be edgier to connect with younger people.

"Fortunately, Minnesota has a unique opportunity to pioneer online HIV prevention strategies. Its public health officials and AIDS groups have taken some steps online already, and they're open to finding better ways to accomplish this. So far, it's unclear if online prevention measures can change behavior. But a groundbreaking study expected soon from the University of Minnesota's Simon Rosser may shed scientific light on what works.

"This new generation of AIDS activists has pointed out a serious problem. Their next step: taking a leadership role in forging the public health and academic partnerships needed to find solutions."

The author is director of the STD and HIV Section, Minnesota Department of Health.

Back to other news for July 2010

Adapted from:
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
07.06.2010; Peter Carr


  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 
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