Can a Web-Based Video Series Encourage HIV Testing?

Investigators at Northeastern conducted a trial that evaluated if a video series designed for the viewer to identify with characters and “transport” themselves into the storyline lead to an increase in HIV testing.

With the digital age in full swing, it is important to integrate web-based campaigns into preventive health education.

Surpassing the simple existence of online health promotional videos, it is critical that these digital resources are both informative and successful in conveying a particular message.

At the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care Conference (ANAC 2019) a team of investigators from Northeastern School of Nursing in Boston, Massachusetts, presented a late breaker on using a web-based video series to reduce HIV risk among women.

As part of a randomized, controlled trial, the investigators assessed if a 12-episode web-based video series was effective in reducing HIV risk behavior and increasing HIV testing. The series, titled Love, Sex, & Choices (LSC) was designed for the viewer to identify with characters and “transport” themselves into situations within the storyline. The series was compared to a romantic comedy titled RoomieLoverFriends (RLF) in the trial.

The trial enrolled 803 participants who were primarily African American/black women living in the Northeast region. The participants ranged in age from 18 to 28 years. According to the abstract authors, most participants were screened online and met the criteria of being at high-risk for HIV acquisition. At enrollment, the participants were randomized to watch either LSC or RLF.

Following completion of the series or the movie, data were collected from each participant. The investigators evaluated each participant’s identification with the characters using the 11-item “Identification with Character Scale” and transportation into the narrative was measured using the 12-item “Transportation Scale” ([Igartua & Barrios, 2012], [Green & Brock 2000], respectively). Independent sample t-testing was performed to evaluate mean (M) score differences (SD) between the videos.

Through analysis the investigators determined that mean scores for identifying with the characters were statistically higher for LSC (M = 39.05, SD = 8.50) when compared to RLF (M = 35.14, SD = 8.98), t(793) = 6.29, P < 0.001.

Scores for transportation into the story were also higher for LSC (M = 65.45, SD = 9.37) when compared to RLF (M = 61.35, SD = 9.77), t(789) = 6.01, P < 0.001.

In this study, the web-series designed to be used as an intervention tool to cut HIV risk behavior and increase HIV testing was more successful in initiating character identification and transportation into the story when compared to an entertaining series targeting a similar demographic. According to the abstract authors, these types of web-based programs may be crucial in reaching younger audiences.

“Identifying with characters and immersion into the story may be essential to the effect of video on behavior change,” the authors concluded. “Streaming video can reach populations with culturally relevant, meaningful web stories to promote health.”

The abstract, Evaluation of Love, Sex, & Choices, a Web-Based Video Series to Reduce HIV Risk in Urban Women, was presented in a late breaker session on Friday, November 8, at ANAC 2019 in Portland, Oregon.