• November 25, 2014

HIV today: Do social media apps help spread of disease?

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Related YouTube Video

Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2014 4:30 am

Luis Almodovar and Lee Sauseda spend a portion of their workday utilizing cellphone applications to locate local individuals looking for social and/or sexual encounters.

Social media apps can specifically target individuals based on things like sexual preference, ethnicity and age and provide an easier and more modern way of “picking someone up.” The applications also provide an outlet for Prevent HIV/AIDS risk reduction specialists like Almodovar and Sauseda to identify people who need to be educated about the risks of HIV or get tested for the virus.

Sauseda and Almodovar thumb through postings from local communities and wait for someone to respond.

“Some days are better than others and some days no one is talking,” Sauseda said. “We befriend them and try to educate them if they are open to it.”

Prevent HIV/AIDS Center, based in Temple, provides free HIV and syphilis outreach education, condom distribution and testing to seven counties throughout Central Texas.

In the past decade, advancements in technology and medical science greatly changed the face of HIV/AIDS from the character played by Tom Hanks in the 1993 movie “Philadelphia.”

Technology helped organizations reach out and educate people, but also facilitated an easier way for people to arrange anonymous and impromptu sexual encounters locally.

“It’s like ordering a pizza,” Sauseda said. “You don’t even have to leave your desk at work to find someone to hook up with. You just go on the apps and find what you’re looking for. Sometimes the person is in the office right next to you and you can hook up on your lunch break.”

Almodovar and Sauseda have profiles on several different apps where they try to intercept “hookups.” Rather than sex, they offer means of protection and an HIV and syphilis test.

Experts say education and awareness are the keys to preventing the spread of HIV. Over the past decade, the annual number of new HIV infections remained relatively stable, but the number of people living with HIV increased. Still, the pace of new infections continues at far too high a level — particularly among certain groups, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Teach safe sex

Janet Cates, program manager of Prevent HIV/AIDS, said children should be educated about safe sex at an early age.

“We teach our children to swim and we even put a life jacket on them in case they get too close and fall in,” she said. “Why are we not educating our youth on this topic? HIV won’t jump on you ... you have to make the conscious decision to have unprotected sex and not protect yourself.”

The Killeen Independent School District offers students the Scott & White “Worth the Wait” abstinence-based sex education program, but groups like Prevent HIV/AIDS say kids need a “buffet of options” where they decide how to protect themselves.

In the meantime, the specialists will attempt to connect with those who are not educated about the risks of HIV — and those who choose to ignore them.

Susan Mayo and her team of risk reduction specialists hope more open dialogue will encourage more people to get tested instead of driving them underground.

“There is still a huge stigma around HIV and getting tested and people are afraid to find out their status,” she said. “We need to be more comfortable talking about it.”

For more information on getting tested, call 254-771-3352, search PreventHIVAIDS Temple on Facebook or email PreventHIVAIDS@aol.com.

More about

More about

Rules of Conduct

  • 1 Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
  • 2 Don't Threaten or Abuse. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated. AND PLEASE TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
  • 3 Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
  • 4 Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
  • 5 Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
  • 6 Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Welcome to the discussion.

1 comment:

  • seaguy posted at 4:41 pm on Mon, Mar 24, 2014.

    seaguy Posts: 1

    Before the apps it was the chat lines, parks, and restrooms so I don't think they help spread it they just have changed how the hooking up takes place. I think they have made it somewhat safer in that now men can see pictures of who they are meeting whereas that was not possible on chat lines.