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Elizabeth Boskey, Ph.D.

Facebook - The STD Fighter?

By April 6, 2012

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Tracy Clark-Flory, from Salon, recently posted an interesting piece on the possibility of using Facebook and other social media sites to target STD screening to groups of at-risk friends. The theory behind it is not the same as that behind contact tracing - where infected individual's sexual partners are sought out for testing and treatment because of their direct risk. Instead, scientists are hypothesizing that people who are in the same social networks are also in the same sexual networks. In other words, people may not always hook up with their friends, but they do often hook up with their friend's friends.

Ironically, I wouldn't be surprised if this actually turned out to be less true in our heavily networked world than it was even ten years ago. These days, online networks and Internet dating sites make it far easier to meet people outside of one's immediate circle of friends then it ever was before. This fact could potentially minimize the utility of testing friendship groups, but it doesn't negate the other point of the article. People like to be in sync with their friends. If getting tested and talking about it publicly, or writing about where you used condoms, becomes the cool thing to do, maybe more people will get tested... and practice safe sex.

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