General and health-related Internet use among an urban, community-based sample of HIV-positive women: implications for intervention development

AIDS Care. 2015;27(4):536-44. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2014.980215. Epub 2014 Nov 20.


Internet-based HIV interventions are increasingly common, although little focus has been on HIV-positive women. To understand the feasibility of using the Internet to deliver behavioral interventions to HIV-positive women, we sought to describe patterns of Internet use for general and health-related purposes and to explore differences between Internet-using and non-using women. From February 2014 to April 2014, 103 women were recruited at six community-based organizations in the Bronx, NY that provide services to HIV-positive persons. Women completed a 30-minute interview and answered a brief survey of socio-demographic factors, risk behavior and clinical characteristics. We performed χ(2) and Kruskal-Wallis tests to compare Internet users and non-users. Sixty-one percent of participants were current Internet users, most of whom used a personal electronic device (e.g., cellphone/smartphone) to access the Internet. While higher proportions of Internet users were passively engaged (e.g., signed up to receive email updates [42.9%] or watched an online video [58.7%] for health-related purposes), smaller proportions (12.7-15.9%) were involved in more interactive activities such as posting comments, questions, or information about health-related issues in an online discussion or a blog. A majority of Internet non-users (60.0%) expressed interest in going online. Lack of computer or Internet access (37.5%) and Internet navigation skills (37.5%) were the primary reasons for non-use. Compared with non-users, Internet users were more likely to be younger, to have higher socioeconomic status, and to report low health-related social support. Despite having a lower proportion of Internet users in our study than the general population, Internet-using women in our study had relatively high levels of online engagement and went online for both general and health-related purposes. However, Internet-based interventions targeting HIV-positive women will likely need to include providing computer and/or Internet access as well as training participants in how to navigate the Internet.

Keywords: HIV; Internet; intervention; technology; women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Consumer Health Information
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination / methods*
  • Information Seeking Behavior*
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Middle Aged
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Therapy, Computer-Assisted
  • Urban Population