Social Media Outreach Campaign Helps Diagnose HIV Positive Patients
A new study coming from the United Kingdoms has found evidence to suggest social media could help identify and diagnose more HIV-positive people who are unaware they carry the virus.
According to Fox News, Dr. Emilie Elliot, of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, and her team of researchers found that a significant number of gay and bisexual men responded to an ad campaign they ran offering home sampling kits for HIV through social media and apps. Approximately 6,000 men ultimately took part in the campaign, and 82 of them were newly diagnosed as HIV-positive. In other words, these were people who had no idea they were living with the AIDS-causing virus prior.
“The key to HIV prevention and control of the epidemic is to test as early as possible and manage and treat,” Dr. Elliot said. “The more opportunities there are for that, the more you reduce barriers and the more you’re likely to reduce the weight of undiagnosed HIV.”
One of the things that researchers say typically stands in the way of people getting tested for something like HIV is the the public stigma and lack of anonymity. It’s much easier for someone to commit to a test if they can take it and get the results back all within the comfort of their own home as opposed to going to a clinic where they might feel subjected to personal questions or scrutiny.
The home kits work by taking a sample of the person’s saliva. Saliva, which is produced predominantly during mealtime and can help counteract bacteria, also contains the DNA necessary to diagnose HIV. This social media-driven outreach campaign has been ongoing for several years, but this is the first study to really identify just how beneficial this new form of testing can potentially become.
“We’re picking up new cases and testing people who wouldn’t otherwise test and getting them into care,” Elliot said.
There’s an old adage that says, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” That may be true, but if you make the water a lot easier/accessible, chances are more people will indulge.