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Internet use among Ugandan adolescents: Implications for HIV intervention

Michele L. Ybarra1, Julius Kiwanuka2, Nneka Emenyonu3, David R. Bangsberg3,4

PLoS Medicine

November 2006

SARPN acknowledges Eldis as the source of this document:
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The Internet is fast gaining recognition as a powerful, low-cost method to deliver health intervention and prevention programs to large numbers of young people across diverse geographic regions. The feasibility and accessibility of Internet-based health interventions in resource-limited settings, where cost-effective interventions are most needed, is unknown. To determine the utility of developing technology-based interventions in resource-limited settings, availability and patterns of usage of the Internet first need to be assessed.

Methods and Findings

The Uganda Media and You Survey was a cross-sectional survey of Internet use among adolescents (ages 12–18 years) in Mbarara, Uganda, a municipality mainly serving a rural population in sub-Saharan Africa. Participants were randomly selected among eligible students attending one of five participating secondary day and boarding schools in Mbarara, Uganda. Of a total of 538 students selected, 93% (500) participated.

Of the total respondents, 45% (223) reported ever having used the Internet, 78% (175) of whom reported going online in the previous week. As maternal education increased, so too did the odds of adolescent Internet use. Almost two in five respondents (38% [189]) reported already having used a computer or the Internet to search for health information. Over one-third (35% [173]) had used the computer or Internet to find information about HIV/AIDS, and 20% (102) had looked for sexual health information. Among Internet users, searching for HIV/AIDS information on a computer or online was significantly related to using the Internet weekly, emailing, visiting chat rooms, and playing online games. In contrast, going online at school was inversely related to looking for HIV/AIDS information via technology. If Internet access were free, 66% (330) reported that they would search for information about HIV/AIDS prevention online.


Both the desire to use, and the actual use of, the Internet to seek sexual health and HIV/AIDS information is high among secondary school students in Mbarara. The Internet may be a promising strategy to deliver low-cost HIV/AIDS risk reduction interventions in resource-limited settings with expanding Internet access.

  1. Internet Solutions for Kids, Irvine, California, United States of America.
  2. Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Department of Pediatrics, Mbarara, Uganda.
  3. Epidemiology and Prevention Interventions Center, Division of Infectious Diseases, San Francisco General Hospital, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, United States of America.
  4. The Positive Health Program, San Francisco General Hospital, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, United States of America.

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