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Sex::Tech: Using Technology to Reach Youth with HIV and Sexual Health Information


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Co-authored by Josie Halpern-Finnerty,

Deb Levine

Last week at ISIS, Inc.’s Exit Disclaimer Sex::Tech conference Exit Disclaimer, we heard from leading voices in the field that we need to engage with our young audiences and use the tools they use to provide HIV and sexual health information.

As ISIS Executive Director Deb Levine Exit Disclaimer said in her opening remarks, we must focus on being accessible, effective, relevant, innovative (in both our work and how we evaluate it), and ready to engage our communities in our work. A talented group of young African American students powerfully demonstrated this message in an interactive theater piece, BuckWorld One Exit Disclaimer, which dealt with some of the factors affecting the choices young people make about sexual health.

We were excited to learn about a number of HIV and sexual health information sites for teens, such as TeenSource Exit Disclaimer, Exit Disclaimer, and Hard to Spell, Easy to Catch Exit Disclaimer — many of which were developed by and for youth. We also heard about several new texting initiatives for teens, including REALtalk DC Exit Disclaimer (a program of Metro TeenAIDS Exit Disclaimer) and “Text to Change,” Exit Disclaimer an HIV education texting campaign in Uganda. We are only skimming the surface in this post, but these sessions and examples reinforced the power of using technology to communicate with youth about HIV and sexual health information.


Several presenters such as Dr. Brian Mustanski Exit Disclaimer, Dr. Patrick Sullivan Exit Disclaimer, and Dr. Jose Bauermeister Exit Disclaimer, shared their research on new media interventions and Internet use among young men who have sex with men. In addition, Dr. Rachel Jones Exit Disclaimer from Rutgers College of Nursing talked about her upcoming study to evaluate the effectiveness of a series of cell-phone soap-opera videos designed to reduce HIV sexual risk behavior in young women living in urban areas, based on her piloting of “A Story about Toni, Mike & Valerie.” Exit Disclaimer

There were several cross-cutting messages that came through loud and clear in all the sessions (and which reminded us of Andrew Wilson’s lessons learned from the SXSW conference):

  1. Technology is here to stay.
  2. We need to involve youth (or our other audiences) in planning and evaluation.
  3. Partnerships are key (between community organizations, technical experts, clients, etc.).

Interested in learning more about Sex::Tech? If so, check out the #sextech Twitter conversation Exit Disclaimer. Did you attend Sex::Tech? If so, what inspired you about the conference?