INTERNET OUTREACH… The NEXT
Why internet Outreach?
• A "popular" practice that might be "fueling the spread" of STDs among MSM. Recent research suggests
that MSM who meet partners on the Internet are more likely to engage in high-risk sexual behaviors and
have a history of STDs, including HIV.
• Increasingly, the Internet has become a focal point for more widespread communication linking potential
sexual partners, a matter of concern for public health officials. In the summer of 1999, for example, health
officials in San Francisco identified an outbreak of syphilis among gay men who had met their sexual
partners in an Internet chat room.
• In the first three months of 2007, 260 new cases of syphilis were recorded in New York City, 96% of which
were MSM - more than double the diagnoses in the same period last year, which had seen a leveling off in
new infections. Around 70% of American syphilis-infected MSM are HIV+, and research suggests that
two-thirds of men in New York infected with both syphilis and HIV engage in unsafe sex.
• In response to the trend, some local public and private health agencies have launched Internet-based
prevention and treatment campaigns aimed at MSM who meet partners online. Over the past few years,
agencies in several cities have begun placing banner advertisements on "sexually oriented" Web sites,
hosting online discussions about disease prevention methods and making laboratory slips for STD testing
available online for users to download, the Times reports. Although there is "little data" to help guide local
agencies on "effective" prevention strategies, many health care workers say that Internet programs "can be
particularly useful in reaching men in rural areas," young MSM and others who wish to remain anonymous.
The Internet & MSMs
Adam4adam.com is a top 10,000 site that reaches over 303K U.S. monthly. The site is
popular among a more educated, more youthful, African American, primarily male
audience. The typical visitor visits Blackplanet, frequents planetout.com, and consults
Why internet Outreach?
• The internet has quickly become the newest battlefield in the war against HIV/STDs. Many
agencies are scrambling to get caught up and connected to a thriving community of people who they
may have never known existed.
• Harlem United has been one of the more successful agencies with internet outreach. The
crucial advantage to internet outreach is having a Mobile testing unit. The unit travels to key
locations in the Harlem/South Bronx areas while peers conduct outreach to at risk
populations. In the Mobile unit outreach workers equipped with laptops conducting the same
type of outreach via the internet outreach in chat rooms. When they have successfully
identified someone who is interested in being testing, the staff works with them on a location
and time and the mobile unit then travels to that location. Most chatters, when offered the
home delivery option are very surprised that more agencies are not doing this type of service.
• Harlem United’s outreach staff has participated in more the 50 hours of hands on training and
evaluation with a large percent of the staff already certified by the State of New York for Pre
& Post Test Counseling. These skills are then translated for use via the internet. Since
september 2005, staff have collectively logged more then 1200 hours of virtual time, with
online profiles being viewed over 3000 times and have conducted 93 individual risk reduction
• Internet profiles were created on various websites that men of color frequent and on AOL.COM that
highlight the availability of Rapid Testing. The profile lists the screen names of our internet outreach peers
allowing the user can contact a peer to ask questions or schedule an appointment to have the Mobil Testing
Unit come to their area and administer Rapid Testing.
• During the first 2 months of the initial profile creation, internet users contacted peers asking about the
OraQuick Advance technology as well as the reliability of the test. Questions about symptoms and
incubation periods of HIV/STI were also concerns.
• Internet users who contacted peers were encouraged to ask as many clarifying questions about Rapid
Testing and offered an opportunity to schedule appointments to be tested. The clients where “Pre-Test
Counseled” via instant messengers and then offered an option to come in to the main office to be tested or
have the mobile unit come to the area.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
• The internet’s landscape as well has how people connected to it has evolved from a simple home computer
and dial up connection to high-speed broadband i.e. Cable/DSL as well connecting via personal cell phones.
With these advancements in technology, any agency thinking of conducting any type of internet based
intervention must understand how people are accessing the internet and be fully versed in the technology
and lingo of each medium. Just like in chat rooms, cell phone with text messaging features have a language
all their own.
• Harlem United has spend several months reviewing various technologies that will provide them with the
most comprehensive tools that can be used to access the internet. From wireless network cards to Pocket
PC’s, the internet has become a viable avenue Harlem United uses to help 1. Reach target populations that
conventional street outreach and club outreach may miss, 2. Offer Rapid HIV testing to people who would
not ordinarily access health care facilities and 3. Blaze a path that could be used by other agencies that want
to move effective into Internet Based Interventions.