Communication Patterns among Juvenile Detainees: A High-Risk Population for Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases

By Joseph, Christine L. M.; Baxa, Dwayne et al. | Journal of Juvenile Justice, Fall 2015 | Go to article overview

Communication Patterns among Juvenile Detainees: A High-Risk Population for Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases


Joseph, Christine L. M., Baxa, Dwayne, Kaljee, Linda, Brar, Indira, Scott, Carla, Dakki, Heather, Lubetsky, Sarah I., Ezell, Jerel Michael, Zhang, Liying, Schultz, Lonni, Markowitz, Norman, Journal of Juvenile Justice


Background

In recent years cell phone and social media use have increased among American adolescents. Based on data gathered in a series of nationally representative surveys entitled "Teens and Technology 2013" and conducted by the Pew Research Center, researchers determined that 78% of teens now have a cell phone, almost half (47%) of which are smartphones (a cell phone having a touchscreen or alphabetic keypad and many of the features of a personal computer; Madden, Lenhart, Duggan, Cortesi, & Gasser, 2013).

Although the landscape of social media preferred by teens is often shifting, Facebook and Twitter are in consistent use by American teens (Madden et al., 2013; Smith, 2014). Cell phones are a main route to the Internet for many adolescents, with one in four reporting that they almost always access the Internet using their phone, and three in four reporting that they access the Internet using their cell phones, tablets, or other mobile devices at least occasionally (Madden et al., 2013). While youth from households with lower socioeconomic status are slightly less likely to use the Internet in general, they are just as likely as those who come from higher socioeconomic strata, to use their cell phones as their main point of access to the Internet (Madden et al., 2013).

Given the pervasive use of cell phones and smartphones among adolescents, emerging interventions targeting this age group are beginning to utilize social media platforms to deliver health information and emulate health care interactions (Wantland, Portillo, Holzemer, Slaughter, & McGhee, 2004). Web-based interventions and use of social media have been demonstrated to be as, or more effective, than traditional interventions for chronic disease management, as well as for adolescent sexual health and substance abuse prevention programs (Wantland et al., 2004). Use of social media and web-based communication platforms may be more accessible and effective than place-based programs for marginalized and transient populations. For these subgroups, however, general trends in utilization of technology and social media may differ from that of the general population due to access or interest.

Utilization of social media has not been evaluated for the high-risk population of juvenile detainees. The literature shows that these youth often have sex at earlier ages, use condoms infrequently, and may have older and numerous partners (Belenko, Dembo, Rollie, Childs, & Salvatore, 2009; Aalsma et al., 2011). Sexual encounters for these youth often involve substance and alcohol use (Belenko et al., 2009; Aalsma et al., 2011). Moreover, these youth are often beset with significant psychiatric conditions and substance use disorders that further increase risk of sexually transmitted infections and hamper prevention efforts (Belenko et al., 2009; Aalsma et al., 2011). Marginalized adolescents are also less likely than others to have access to health services, resulting in less contact with health resources, including prevention information and HIV/STD testing (Bell, Breland, & Ott, 2013; Danielson et al., 2014). According to the CDC, youth aged 13 to 24 years old accounted for 26% of all new (incident) HIV infections in the United States, despite comprising 17% of the population (CDC, 2012). Most of these infections occurred among men who had sex with men and represented a 22% increase from 2008. In 2013, 21% of all those newly diagnosed with HIV infection were youth aged 13 to 24 years old. Data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) mirror these trends (MDHSS, 2015). In addition, it is estimated that over 50% of youth do not know they are HIV infected. If juvenile detainees are similar to the general adolescent population in their use of the Internet and social media, delivering HIV/STD interventions through new media technology may be a viable method for delivering interventions and engaging juvenile detainees in randomized trials upon reentry into the community. …

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