University of Minnesota Researchers Plan Trial of Web-Based HIV Prevention Program
Researchers at the University of Minnesota plan to begin a clinical trial to test a Web-based software program that aims to fight the spread of HIV by reducing risky behaviors that can spread the virus, ANI/Malaysia Sun reports.
The research team -- led by Joseph Konstan, a professor of computer science and engineering at the university, and B.R. Simon Rosser, a professor in the university's School of Public Health -- has worked for more than five years to create a program that assesses risky behaviors among men who are seeking sex with other men through online networks. The team currently is testing an online intervention program that aims to reduce risky sexual behaviors that contribute to the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
The software program asks users questions about body image, self-esteem, sexual health and risky behaviors and then provides information about HIV/AIDS. The team's research, which is part of an interdisciplinary project called the Men's Internet Study, has found that seeking sex partners is the most popular Internet activity for high-risk groups, such as men who have sex with men. According to the researchers, the online model can be used for other health purposes, such as cancer prevention, substance abuse intervention and obesity prevention. The researchers said they hope the trial finds that the tool is effective in preventing risky behaviors.
According to Konstan, the "goal of this research is to create a genuine online experience that promotes healthier sexual behavior and encourages people to take fewer risks in sexual encounters." Konstan added that it is important to use the Internet for HIV prevention programs. If HIV prevention outreach is not conducted properly "or in a way that's most responsive, we're going to have a new HIV epidemic," he said, adding, "There's enormous urgency in addressing gaps in HIV prevention" (ANI/Malaysia Sun, 12/19).