Exploring the communication of social support within virtual communities: a content analysis of messages posted to an online HIV/AIDS support group

Cyberpsychol Behav. 2008 Jun;11(3):371-4. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2007.0118.


The present study examined the nature of social support exchanged within an online HIV/AIDS support group. Content analysis was conducted with reference to five types of social support (information support, tangible assistance, esteem support, network support, and emotional support) on 85 threads (1,138 messages). Our analysis revealed that many of the messages offered informational and emotional support, followed by esteem support and network support, with tangible assistance the least frequently offered. Results suggest that this online support group is a popular forum through which individuals living with HIV/AIDS can offer social support. Our findings have implications for health care professionals who support individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / psychology*
  • Communication*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • HIV Seropositivity / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Self Concept
  • Self-Help Groups*
  • Social Support*
  • User-Computer Interface*
  • Writing