Utilizing the Power of the Internet to Reach High-risk Youth and MSM: The Massachusetts Experience

Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Continental Ballroom
David S. Novak, MSW , Online Buddies, Inc, Boston, MA
Thomas Bertrand, MPH , State Laboratory Institute, Massachusetts Dept. of Health, Jamaica Plain, MA

Since 2004, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has provided funding to community-based organizations for website production/promotion targeting at-risk populations. Gettestedboston.org was designed to address the increasing STD and HIV rates in men-who-have-sex-with-men and URhealthstyle.com was designed to address higher rates of STDs in teens compared to adults, specifically high-risk urban teens. Both sites provide plain-language information about common STDs and HIV as well as easy access to testing and treatment sites. Community specific input was solicited in the development and design of each website, thereby assuring appropriate language and style for each population.

To describe web usage of both websites including the number of unique visitors, number of infections researched, question/answers, access to testing and treatment, and referrals.

2007 data from Gettestedboston.org and URhealthstyle.com web usage were evaluated and analyzed.

Through June 2007:
Over 10,000 unique visitors viewed Gettestedboston.org (an average of 57 visitors per day and approximately 109 pages viewed per day). The most frequently viewed pages were: testing sites, testing sites map, HIV, chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhea, HIV question and answers, syphilis, HPV, and hepatitis.
Since the May 2007 launch, over 1,450 unique visitors viewed URhealthstyle.com (an average of 24 visitors per day and approximately 94 pages viewed per day) and approximately 15% researched sexual health information.

A majority of web users visiting both sites researched disease specific information and approximately 1/3 of those users sought information on where to go for testing. Further analysis of infectious syphilis diagnosis site data suggests an increase in visits to testing sites promoted on GetTestedBoston.org. 2007 analysis of STD and School Based Health Center visits will be analyzed in early 2008 and presented.

Based on website usage, producing targeted websites proved to be an effective and cost-effective way to provide sexual health information to large numbers of individuals in both communities.
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