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Additional HIV Testing Questions and Comments from Bloggers*

For people without health insurance, how accessible/affordable are HIV tests?

Many clinics, hospitals, and health departments across the country offer free or low-cost HIV tests. Visit the CDC’s HIV testing locator to find your local testing center. Once you put in your zip code, you have the option to click “free” and then it will search by which sites offer free testing.

You can buy a home HIV test kit from a pharmacy like Walgreens. Please comment on this.

Dr. Maxwell explained, “There are tests that are available at local pharmacies. They involve mailing in a tiny amount of blood and getting results back, but not right away, as opposed to the 20 minutes it takes to get results from an oral swab. These tests have some value for people who really don't want to access a healthcare setting because you can take the test in the privacy of your own home.”

What are the arguments that you feel do the best job of convincing people to be tested?

Dr. Maxwell said, “I tell people that it’s their right to get tested for HIV. It’s a part of overall health maintenance.”

Why are doctors so reluctant in offering the test to pregnant women?

HIV testing for pregnant women is strongly recommended Exit Disclaimer by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Exit Disclaimer. Perinatal HIV transmission rates are 2% or less when antiretroviral therapy is initiated and adhered to during pregnancy. Dr. Maxwell told us, “If there is a success story, this is it!” For more information, visit the CDC’s One Test. Two Lives. website

What are some ways bloggers feel they can be influential in their readers’ health care behaviors/activities, such as seeking an HIV test? Getting into care/treatment early if positive?

Andre said, “Bloggers can let their readers know they are getting an HIV test, why they are doing it, and why it is beneficial. This can spur important dialogue and behavior change.”

Can you expand on viral blogging strategies to address HIV and HIV testing day?

Andre told us, “From what I have learned, the best strategy would be to make sure that you have a proper assessment of the social media tools that you will need to reach your target audience. Tools such as Facebook and MySpace can be helpful in reaching a large audience. Reaching out to relevant bloggers to spread the message is also effective to not only spread your message, but to reinforce your relationship with the blogging community. 'Shareable' media such as widgets and banners are also very useful to disseminate to bloggers.”

How can we better coordinate new media to address online sex habits that increase one’s risk for HIV infection?

One way to reach people is to deliver resources and information, like where to get an HIV test or how to practice safer sex, on websites like chat rooms or meetup sites. The power of new media is that information can be delivered in many different formats; the important thing is have these messages in places where your target audience is.

Andre said, “Partnerships and organizing events such as these Webinars are a great way to combine credible sources with links to large audiences in the online community. Virtual roundtable discussions can be held to address these types of concerns, allowing the community to weigh in with questions and have experts on hand to answer them.”

Are blogs, Facebook, etc. reaching people from lower socio-economic groups?

There is still much debate about the “digital divide.” Exit Disclaimer Andre told us, “It's hard to say how much of these technologies are reaching lower socio-economic situations; however, it is likely that those in this group are not being made aware of all that the Web has to offer.” Several months ago Andre came across a blog essay by Danah Boyd Exit Disclaimer where she dissected class divisions between MySpace and Facebook users.

* We'd like to thank Dr. Maxwell, Mr. Andre Blackman, and Mr. Bob Kohmescher for their help in following up with these questions.


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