Disclosure of PrEP Usage on Social Media

App icons on a phone screen.The new paper “Sensitive Sharing on Social Media: Exploring Willingness to Disclose PrEP Usage Among Adolescent Males Who Have Sex With Males” explores how adolescent men who have sex with men (AMSM) make decisions about sharing sensitive personal information on social media. The paper, which was published in the journal Social Media + Society, presents findings from a survey study of AMSM and their willingness to disclose whether they use the HIV prevention medication PrEP on social media.

“Knowing that AMSM are at disproportionate risk for contracting HIV and that this population uses social media very often, we were interested in exploring potential outreach strategies for increasing awareness and update of PrEP. Understanding willingness to disclose PrEP use is important because some outreach strategies might involve AMSM talking about their use of PrEP,” said Jeremy Birnholtz, Ph.D., the study’s lead author.

Birnholtz is an affiliate faculty member at the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing (ISGMH) at Northwestern University and director of Northwestern’s Social Media Lab.

Major findings of the study:

  • Most participants would be unlikely to disclose their PrEP use on social media.
  • Some participants were willing to disclose on platforms that their friends, and not their parents or family, were likely to see (e.g. Snapchat, Instagram stories).
  • Disclosure was more likely among participants who thought some of their peers might be using PrEP.

The paper’s co-authors include Ashley Kraus, Ph.D.; Weiwei Zheng; David Moskowitz, Ph.D.; Kathryn Macapagal, Ph.D.; and Darren Gergle, Ph.D.