The Positive Role of Social Networks and Social Networking Technology in the Condom-Using Behaviors of Homeless Young People

Objective To examine the impact of condom-using peers in the social networks of homeless young people, differences in behaviors were assessed based on the social location of ties (home-based vs. street-based) and how those ties are maintained (face-to-face vs. via social networking technology). Methods “Ego-centric” social network data were collected from 103 currently sexually active homeless young people aged 16–26 years in Los Angeles, California. Associations between condom use and the condom-using behaviors of social network influences were assessed using standard logistic regression. Results About 52% of respondents had a street-based peer who was a condom user. Having such a peer was associated with a 70% reduction in the odds of having unprotected sex at last intercourse. About 22% of respondents had a condom-using, home-based peer with whom they communicated only via social networking technology. Having such a peer was associated with a 90% reduction in risky sexual behavior and a 3.5 times increase in safer sex behavior. Conclusion The study revealed several implications for new human immunodeficiency virus-prevention interventions that mobilize these networks and social networking technologies.

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Public Health Reports