Using social media to fight HIV

"We use Facebook to push messages that pull people in."
By Diana Manos
01:24 PM
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The young gay Latino male population is among the most vulnerable for contracting human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. They've also been a population incredibly difficult to reach in clinical care and prevention efforts. One federally qualified health center, however, has managed to make serious strides. 

Alicia Wilson, executive director of La Clinica del Pueblo, a federally qualified health center in Washington, D.C., has been a part of it. La Clinica, which offers free culturally appropriate health services to the Latino and immigrant communities, has had success using Facebook to reach young gay men and young transgender women, Wilson said.

"We use Facebook to push messages that pull people in," where they can receive testing and help to manage HIV, mental health and substance abuse treatment and care for chronic diseases, she said. "We create a physical and an emotional safe space."

Wilson will be part of a panel speaking at the "Disruptive Women in Health Care: Technology Gets Intimate" session on Tuesday, Dec. 9, at the mHealth Summit.

By using Facebook, La Clinica has helped to reduce the HIV rate in the District of Columbia for these vulnerable populations, Wilson said.

Facebook enables La Clinica to create a community, which has fostered success in getting the message out. Surprisingly, other social media, like Twitter, have not worked so well, but Wilson said it has helped other disenfranchised populations.

Once La Clinica reaches its target population, it uses electronic health records to help improve care, according to Wilson, who said the clinic adopted EHRs in 2008. "EHRs allow us to manage care in different ways," she said, though she does not think they are "a panacea."

Data gathered from EHRs has allowed the clinic to analyze various groups and subgroups of patients being treated at the clinic to ensure that all needs are being met.

"We can mine the data and compare it, see how we stack up and learn from each other," Wilson said. "We can look at the numbers and see what's working."

Wilson's commitment to social justice extends beyond the doors of La Clinica; she sits on both the board of directors for the D.C. Primary Care Association and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton's, D-District of Columbia, Latino Community Congressional Advisory Committee. She is also a member of the National Steering Committee on Promotores de Salud, convened by the Federal Office of Minority Health.

The panel discussion, which begins at 4 p.m. in Potomoc 4-5, is one of three events hosted by Disruptive Women in Healthcare. Following the panel is a discussion on the universal power and responsibilities of mHealth. That will be followed at 5 p.m. by an award ceremony honoring the 2014-2015 Disruptive Women to Watch and a reception, all taking place in the Pose Ultra Lounge.

The mHealth Summit 2014 runs from Dec. 7-11, at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center just outside Washington, D.C. Register here.

This story originally appeared on Healthcare IT News sister site mHealth News.

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