It’s official – I’ve now presented at a conference! I had presented before, but they were mostly campus conferences. The Sex::Tech conference is a national conference about using mobile and internet technologies to reach youth with information about sexual health. I presented on my work in my social work internship with the HIV/AIDS Resource Center about maintaining client confidentiality when using new technologies. Two other U-M SPH students and one recent alum also presented and won a young researcher award (see below)!
As a nonprofit organization, using social media to get the word out about our work is great, since most online platforms are free. There are potential ethical issues, though, when communicating with clients – especially people already living with HIV (“clients” at HARC also includes people who come for HIV testing or with whom we interact during outreach and educational activities). Most of our accounts online say “HIV” or “AIDS” or both in the title or name. This can pose a problem for people who don’t want to come out and say they might have HIV or be at risk for contracting HIV. More obvious issues of confidentiality include a staff member posting a comment on a client’s public space – think about what could happen if I wrote to someone living with HIV on their facebook wall: “Hey, did you get that gonorrhea test yet? You’re at higher risk since you have HIV.” We have had no such issues, but we also don’t necessarily have a social media-specific set of guidelines in place at our organization (yet!). We have confidentiality guidelines in our staff handbook, so obviously that would cover the above situation, but it could become a very gray area when a staff member is publicly friends with a client in a public space. What if someone wonders why they’re friends or how they know each other? What would be the client’s response? These are some of the topics I presented about at the conference.
The presentation was more of a workshop than a presentation, resulting with the (over 65!) participants leaving with a handout that can help them get started making guidelines for their organizations. I have uploaded both the presentation and the handout on SlideShare.net.
The Sexuality and Health Lab (SexLab) in the SPH also had two students and one recent grad present their research – and they even won the conference’s first-ever Young Researchers Award! Their research was based on about 30 in-depth interviews with young men who have sex with men in our community, and they each analyzed the data with a different topic in mind. Emily Pingel was examining coming out in the techno era, Michelle Johns was looking at masculinity of young men who have sex with men who seek partners online, and Anna Eisenberg was learning about negotiation and communication in protective sexual health practices. Their presentation was well-received, with many questions from the audience afterwards.