An Online Social Utility for STD Prevention
Buhi, Eric R., The Journal of Sex Research
STDPreventionOnline.org. Created and maintained by the Internet & STD Center of Excellence, Denver Department of Health. Free of Charge.
In response to the tremendous growth of social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook (Lenhart, Purcell, Smith, & Zickuhr, 2010), the Internet & STD Center of Excellence is capitalizing on such technologies for professionals specializing in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexual health education, counseling, and research. With funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and carried out by the Denver Department of Public Health, one of the Center's major projects is STDPreventionOnline.org (STDPO; see Figure 1). Welcoming visitors to this free SNS for STD prevention and sexual health specialists is the statement, "Putting reproductive health professionals in touch with the people and resources they need."
Designed with principles embraced by major SNSs, STDPO members can build a profile (see Figure 2) and upload a curriculum vitae, create, maintain, and follow others' STD- and sexual health-related blogs, post comments and respond to other users in the discussion forum, keep track of upcoming conferences and events, post or search for jobs, join a professional group, find reliable STD information, and search for member-uploaded materials. Perhaps most importantly, STDPO allows members to network and communicate with people who do similar work and who are in related fields; the site recommends colleagues, for instance, based on members' specified focus of work (e.g., research or education) and areas of interest (e.g., HIV and AIDS, youths and adolescents, behavioral interventions). Further, the site maintains a search function so members (with and without pictures) can be located.
Some of the resources provided on the site, at the time of writing this review, include free access to the scholarly journal, Sexually Transmitted Infections, and member-uploaded materials, such as Dr. Robert Fullilove's plenary lecture at the 2009 National HIV Prevention Conference; a Guide to Online Communities, providing information on the current and most popular online communities (e.g., SNS and dating); Dr. Kees Rietmeijer's slide presentation on genital ulcer disease, which provides a comprehensive overview of genital ulcer diseases with a focus on syndromic management; and a podcast in which CDC staffers discuss the recently published report on sexual and reproductive health of adolescents and young adults in the United States (Gavin et al., 2009). Among the more than 50 professional groups included on the site are Clinical Cases (with downloadable clinical STD photos, for educational purposes) and the MSM Prevalence Monitoring Project Group, a network of professionals aiming to improve capacity to assess the prevalence of and trends in STDs, HIV, and risk behaviors among men who have sex with men.
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The Groups section of STDPO (as shown in Figure 3) can be very useful to most members. Members can create groups based on common research or practice interests (e.g., HIV rapid testing), common geographic locations (e.g., Florida), or functional workgroup tasks (e.g., surveillance working groups). Private groups are closed and monitored by the organizer; one may "request to join" a group, and the group organizer then notifies the member of the status of acceptance into the group. Many public groups also exist that any member can join by just clicking the "join this group" link. Public and private groups facilitate the sharing of ideas and best practices between members and is one of the most valuable aspects of the site.
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Publication information: Article title: An Online Social Utility for STD Prevention. Contributors: Buhi, Eric R. - Author. Journal title: The Journal of Sex Research. Volume: 48. Issue: 1 Publication date: January-February 2011. Page number: 98+. © 2007 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. COPYRIGHT 2011 Gale Group.