The use of social media by AIDS Foundation of South Africa to promote HIV testing and prevention following the release of Universal Test and Treat policy in 2016.
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HIV prevention and testing are important in preventing the spread of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), but many people are still engaging in unsafe sexual practices. In 2015 the national Department of Health in collaboration with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) initiated a policy called Universal Test and Treat (UTT) policy that sought to support and encourage more prevention and treatment towards HIV/AIDS. UTT policy as HIV prevention policy became effective to South Africa in 2016 to further promote HIV testing and prevention. The policy established some guidelines that sought to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS through reducing HIV infection and related death by 2020, with the UNAIDS recommending that 90% of people should know their HIV status, 90% of positive people should receive a sustained Antiretroviral treatment, and 90% of people receiving treatment should be viral suppressed (WHO, 2016). Much research was focused on preventive measures and barriers that prevented people from accessing health care services. The problem for the study is based on the effectiveness of social media platforms in communicating health information, to ascertain whether these platforms are effective or not in communicating HIV messages. From the literature reviewed there has not much studies done to explore the effectiveness of social media for HIV communication after the release of UTT Policy in 2016. This study focuses on the effectiveness of Facebook in promoting of HIV testing and prevention with the AIDS Foundation of South Africa (AFSA) page as the case study to explore the promotion of the UTT towards increased HIV prevention and testing efforts. This was done by using purposive sampling to purposely select posts that were posted by AIDS Foundation of South Africa on their Facebook page only posts on HIV testing and prevention following the release of UTT policy and these posts were collected from September 2016 to December 2019 and the researcher also explored ways in which AFSA messages reflect the national Department of Health HIV prevention and testing messages in the same year period. To understand the effectiveness of social media platforms in communicating HIV prevention messages, the qualitative content analysis was used to collect and interpret data gathered from AFSA’s and NDoH’s Facebook pages on HIV prevention and testing and public comments were also analysed and interpreted. The collected data from the qualitative content analysis was analysed through the use of thematic data analysis. The coding sheet for the two health organisations was established to create codes. Categories and themes were extracted from the coding process and further discussed. Social media health interaction theory provided the conceptual framework for the research to discuss the effectiveness of social media on health-related issues. The researcher found that social media such as Facebook is effective for HIV communication and AFSA as one of the key health organisations in South Africa was using these platforms to further promoted HIV testing and prevention from 2016 to 2019 following the release of UTT policy. Social media platforms are effective platforms that can be used to communicate health related messages particularly on HIV testing and prevention.