198837 Getting Virtual for the 20th World AIDS Day: Lessons Learned about Second Life from AIDS.gov and the Alliance Library System

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 4:30 PM

Miguel Gomez , Office of HIV/AIDS Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC
Michelle Samplin-Salgado, MPH , Health Services Division, John Snow, Inc., Boston, MA
Carol Perryman, MSLIS , School of Information & Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
ISSUES: In the U.S., 74% of all adults are online, and 87% of adults 18-29 years old are online. Virtual worlds (computer-based, simulated environments) are part of this trend: by 2011, an estimated 80% of Internet users will take part in virtual worlds such as Second Life (SL). There is a need for HIV support and information exchange in safe and stigma-free settings, which virtual worlds can provide.

DESCRIPTION: Karuna Island, a virtual HIV education and support island in SL is supported through funds from the U.S. National Library of Medicine granted to the Alliance Library System. Karuna ‘opened' on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2008. Among Karuna's World AIDS Day events were presentations about HIV by PLWH, caregivers, clinicians, and AIDS.gov (a Federal HIV initiative). During the presentations, 462 avatars visited the auditorium, and overall, 1,527 avatars visited Karuna on World AIDS Day.

LESSONS LEARNED: Virtual worlds can be an effective way to reach people with HIV information and can provide an environment to model safe health behaviors which may lead to real-life behavior changes. Virtual worlds are a safe and private way for individuals to connect around HIV-related issues, particularly for individuals isolated by physical limitations or location.

RECOMMENDATIONS: SL provides a broad platform for agencies working in HIV prevention and treatment to meet their audiences. Work to fully utilize the power of virtual worlds is just beginning. Next steps include: strengthening existing resources; forming new partnerships; and exploring ways to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions in SL.

Learning Objectives:
1. Define what a virtual world is. 2. Describe how World AIDS Day 2008 was recognized in the virtual world of Second Life (SL). 3. Identify four ways people are using virtual worlds to respond to HIV and AIDS. 4. Explain ways different new media tools (such as blogs and social networks) can be integrated with, and strengthen, HIV prevention efforts in SL.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS, Communication Technology

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Director of AIDS.gov and presented at the World AIDS Day presentation in Karuna Island in Second Life.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.