Engaging African American teens in co-creating and disseminating social media based HIV prevention messages

Yulin Hswen, David S. Bickham


Social media is a popular online activity among African American teens, and may afford opportunities for delivering HIV prevention initiatives to this at-risk group. In this case report, we describe the development and pilot testing of a program using a participatory method to engage African American teens in actively designing, co-creating, and disseminating HIV prevention messages using YouTube, a popular video sharing social media platform. We conducted two sequential formative pilot evaluations. In the first pilot study conducted in 2013 we employed a participatory research approach to develop and test a curriculum with emphasis on education, use of social media, and video production and development. During the second pilot study in 2014, we delivered the program to a group of teens and obtained feedback to further refine our curriculum. We enrolled 17 teens, ages 16–18, with 5 in the first pilot and 12 in the second pilot. Participating teens independently created and uploaded peer-generated HIV prevention videos to YouTube. Overall, teens across both pilot studies reported high satisfaction with the session content. This program was locally developed and required few resources, and emerged as feasible and something that the community center would like to continue to deliver. Employing a participatory approach for co-creating social media-based content to target HIV-related health behaviors may appeal to this generation’s tech savvy youth, and can potentially inform future efforts for reaching at-risk teens.