- health promotion
Globally, half of all new HIV infections occur among young people. Despite this incidence, there is a profound lack of resources for HIV-positive youth.
To investigate Internet access, use and acceptability as a means for health promotion and health service delivery among HIV-positive youth.
A community-based participatory approach was used to conduct a mixed methods research study. Thirty-five qualitative in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with youth (ages 12-24) living with HIV in Ontario. Also, brief structured demographic surveys were administered at the time of the interview. A stakeholder group of youth living with HIV, professionals and researchers collaboratively analyzed the data for emerging themes.
Five main themes were identified with respect to the youth's use of and interest in the Internet as a health promotion strategy. These include: (1) high rates of Internet use and access; (2) issues around public and private terminals; (3) their use of the Internet primarily for communication and entertainment; (4) the rarity of health information seeking behavior in this group; and (5) wanting "one-stop shopping" from an e-health site. HIV-positive youth were enthusiastic about the possibility of content that was developed specifically to target them and their needs. Also, they were keen about the possibilities for increased social support that youth-specific online chat rooms and message boards might provide.
Given high rates of use, access and interest, the Internet provides an important way to reach young people living with HIV using health services and health promotion programs. The onus is on e-Health developers to understand the particular needs of HIV-positive youth and create relevant content.