Background: Many interventions find that social media engagement with health promotion materials can translate into behavioral changes. However, only a few studies have examined the ways in which specific actions on various social media platforms are correlated with health behaviors.
Objective: The objective of this study was to examine the association between social media use and HIV testing behaviors among Chinese men who have sex with men (MSM).
Methods: In July 2016, a Web-based survey was conducted to recruit MSM in 8 Chinese cities through Blued (Blue City Holdings Ltd.), the world's largest gay mobile phone app. Data on sociodemographic variables, social media use platforms and behaviors, sexual behaviors, and HIV testing histories were collected. HIV testing-related social media use was defined as having ever engaged with HIV testing content on social media, which was further divided into observing (ie, receiving), endorsing (eg, liking and sharing), and contributing (eg, posting or commenting on HIV testing materials). Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was conducted to determine the best division of HIV testing-related social media use. Univariate and multivariable logistic regressions were used to examine the association between HIV testing-related social media use and HIV testing behaviors.
Results: A total of 2105 individuals participated in the survey. Among them, 46.75% (984) were under the age of 24 years, 35.43% (746) had high school education or less, and 47.74% (587) had condomless sex in the last 3 months. More than half of the respondents (58.14%, 1224/2105) reported HIV testing-related social media use. Additionally, HIV testing-related social media use, especially on multifunctional platforms such as WeChat, was found to be associated with recent HIV testing (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 2.32, 95% CI 1.66-3.24). Contributing on social media was correlated with recent HIV testing (aOR 2.10, 95% CI 1.40-3.16), but neither observing (aOR 0.66, 95% CI 0.38-1.15) nor endorsing (aOR 1.29, 95% CI 0.88-1.90) were correlated.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that social media use, particularly on multifunctional platforms such as WeChat and with contributing behaviors, is correlated with HIV testing among MSM in China. Campaigns that promote active participant contribution on social media beyond passive observation and endorsement of promotional materials are needed. This study has implications for the design and implementation of social media interventions to promote HIV testing.
Keywords: China; HIV; homosexuality; male; mobile application; social Media.
©Bolin Cao, Chuncheng Liu, Maya Durvasula, Weiming Tang, Stephen Pan, Adam J Saffer, Chongyi Wei, Joseph D Tucker. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 19.07.2017.