A study done by the local government of the Philippines indicated that cases of HIV infection are escalating and it was found that social networking is a contributing factor to the increase of HIV cases. Before, it was commercial sex workers who were the leading source of infections in the country, but now social networking is catching up and it’s catching up fast.
Human Immuno Virus, or HIV as we are all familiar with, is a virus that can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS. HIV damages a person’s body by destroying specific blood cells called CD4+ T cells, which are crucial to helping the body fight diseases. These disease-fighting cells fluctuate over time and depending on the productivity of the virus and the viral load achieved, an HIV positive person may be categorized as having Autoimmune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) wherein the body’s immune system is no longer able to function to fight other infections. The T cell count gets so low that the body is no longer able to fight infections. More often, HIV-positive patients die from secondary infections that the body cannot handle because of their compromised immune system.
The study covered 180 MSM (men who have sex with men) respondents. Of the 180 respondents, 124 admitted to using online network sites for dating and sex, while 133 said they had sex with people they contacted through online network sites with the age of those engaging in sex ranges from between 14 and 36.
HIV is spread by:
- having unprotected sex with an infected person. Not all of us know that unprotected anal sex is riskier than unprotected vaginal sex. There is also risk in unprotected oral sex but it is lower compared to unprotected vaginal and anal sex.
- having multiple sex partners
- sharing needles, syringes, rinse water and other equipment used to prepare illicit drugs for inspections
- being born to an infected mother as HIV can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy, normal birth delivery or breast-feeding.
The result of the study, though, is not surprising. Technology and social networking sites create opportunities for people who are normally shy and hesitant in person to make new contacts, keep in touch, share and seek information, do informal learning and sometimes, even just hanging out. Research suggests that youth often use social networking technologies for flirting and building romantic and sexual relationships And this cound happen in any part of the world, as social networks provide an avenue where people can meet and interact with each other.
Online social networks and blogging sites are now the fourth most popular activity online, even ahead of personal emailing . Time spent on these sites is growing three time faster than overall internet rate and now accounts for almost 10 percent of all Internet time. Most of the younger generation (and even half of the older generation, too) uses the internet make new contacts, keep in touch, share and seek information, do informal learning and sometimes even just to hang out. Online, they are more confident and there’s a noted increase of sexual recklessness.
In the UK, The highest internet penetration rate is currently amongst 16-17 years old, with at least 67% owning a profile.
In India where only 5% have internet access (but is growing rapidly), 60% of the users access social networking sites and 50% of these users are under 30 years old.
In Thailand, the use of social networking sites is so rampant that even people from market stalls and street corners are logged on. With 16k wifi hotspots, people can go in and out of networks even on trains and buses.
It shows that internet access is not restricted to the affluent or the middle classes and that people, specially the young ones, and they will use whatever technology or access route is possible and affordable. a positive note, it can also means that social networking sites, though easily used as a tool to spread such an object of malady, can also be used as information portals to improve knowledge about HIV and STIs and attempt to reduce sexual risk behaviors.
Available information online can be used to educate people of the risks and in the long run, discernment. Just as much as social networking sites are used to organize events and activities, they can also be used for campaigns and engagements. In Thailand, where nearly 3 in 10 MSM in Bangkok are HIV-positive, the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre launched “Adam’s Love”, an online communication campaign whose main aim is to encourage MSM in Thailand to adopt safer sexual practices and get HIV tested every three months.
It resulted to huge media coverage, with their website www.adamslove.org (this is a health website) visited 85,900 times. Their YouTube videos gained 68,100 views with the three top-rated videos including oral sex advice, anal sex risks and three simple steps for HIV testing. 43.1% of Thai MSM were willing to get HIV tested within 3 – 6 months.
Though it can have bad effects, that’s how technology should always be. It should be used to alter and improve’s man’s existence, no matter which part of the world.