Taking HIV Connections and Community Online


Super happy- I spent Wednesday at Health Care 2.0 Social Media Camp, an event presented by the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council. It was lovely to see people I’d met previously through the Healthcare and Social Media Canada community (#hcmsca on Twitter) and to meet new faces who are as keen as I am to share the word about the potential of social media tools to engage, build and support health communities. connections_iStock

Social media tools are used by many community groups to enhance their relationships with individuals and organizations. We’re active on Twitter and Facebook, and to a lesser extent, YouTube (there are only so many hours in a day). Social media tools can help reach organizations and individuals who don’t live in the Lower Mainland- wherever there’s Internet, there’s a voice.*  We share program information that helps women get connected with us and ease their isolation. We also share resources and research findings so women with HIV and the folks supporting them can get up to date information for the best care no matter where they are. 

The exciting element of social media is the “social.” It’s participatory, and everyone can have a voice through sharing, discussing, and reflecting on what’s posted. This can result in strengthening communities and visioning change where it’s needed. Ongoing throughout is the opportunity for conversations.

Those of us using Twitter in the HIV community in Canada connect through community hashtags- #HIVCan, #HIV, #AIDS, #AIDSlaw etc. (Here’s a list of the tags often used). We can get program and event information to each other immediately; and share info about local and international action. New findings about HIV, prevention and treatment news is shared far and wide. A lot of activism is also carried out online via petitions that go around the world.

Social Media Tools Perfect for HIV Connections

One of the fantastic things happening through social media tools is the opportunities for patient empowerment, peer to peer connection, and patient to healthcare provider communication- sound familiar?  This is what HIV activism has always been about, and social media streams a great way to carry it on. Now it’s crossing over into other health issues as well. Community development, patient empowerment and making change in how doctors and patients work together is a growing wave that is supported by the energy flowing through social media channels. 

For those of us in the wide reaches of Canada working with little money for meeting in person, social media tools are also a great way to get to know people. As Kat Dodds from Hello Cool World said “Social media is all about collaboration; connecting with the people you want to work with.”  The HIV community is rich with accomplishments and ripe with possibility.

Like any research you read, always consider your sources- there’s incorrect information out there.  Look for established AIDS support and research organizations, medical researchers, or places like the CIHR Canadian HIV Trials Network or BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. You can start by looking at the lists we have on our Twitter feed. And if you haven’t already, think about joining conversations on Twitter about healthcare and social media. Here in Canada, use #hcsmca to find out more about it. If you’d rather look for HIV info, #HIV will get you lots of stuff. There’s a ton to discover.


*Communities without reliable internet access are harder to reach, obviously. I hope this will change as systems are upgraded.