Alaska Organization Uses Online Social Networking to Spread HIV/AIDS Prevention Messages

February 23, 2009

The Alaska AIDS Assistance Association is utilizing Internet outreach in an effort to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, reports. The project, Power-On, posts links to the Web site on social networking sites around that state, offering information and assistance online. Alex Barros, a counselor for the association, said that viewers see a profile that says, "I'm your Power-On Alaska health counselor, if you have any questions about your sexual health or you need information or a referral, click here." A chat window then will open, allowing the user to ask questions and receive responses in real time from Power-On counselors. Barros said the program is designed to reach out to people who need information but might not feel comfortable seeking it. He said that the "idea of the Web is that it gives complete anonymity with a screen name so people ask more intimate questions of our counselors, they're not embarrassed."

The program, which is funded by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, is helping the association reach more people than it has in the past, Barros said, adding that the association is reaching "users across the state with this intervention." According to, Power-On also can connect users with discussion groups and other Web sites and provide information about where to access treatment. People who do not want to speak to a counselor online can receive the same information on the program's Web site, Barros said, adding that the site has more than 300 pages of CDC-approved health information (Maxwell,, 2/19).

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