Internet Use, Social Networking, and HIV/AIDS Risk for Homeless Adolescents

The study authors investigated the association between sexual health and Internet use, including social media sites like Facebook and MySpace, among a sample of homeless youths at high risk of contracting HIV.

A survey of Internet use among 201 homeless adolescents was conducted in 2009, with multivariate logistic regression models assessing how patterns of use were associated with engaging in exchange sex (sex for money, drugs or housing), recent HIV testing, and online partner-seeking behaviors.

Most (96.5 percent) of the adolescents surveyed reported Internet use, with access occurring primarily at public libraries or youth service agencies. Increased time online and recent exchange sex were positively associated with online partner-seeking. Youths linked to family members online were less likely to practice exchange sex and more likely to report a recent HIV test. Adolescents connected to street-based peers online were more likely to practice exchange sex, while youths connected to home-based peers online were more likely to have had a recent HIV test.

"Although these data are preliminary, homeless youth need more access to the Internet, as access facilitates connecting with family and home-based peers whose presence may reduce sexual risk-taking. Access, however, must be carefully monitored to prevent youth soliciting sex online," the authors concluded.