Me, myself, and my avatar: The feasibility of using second life for STI prevention education

Objectives: Participants will be able to: 1. Identify risk assessment for sexually transmitted infection (STI) exposure. 2. Explore communication skills and their role in preventing STIs. 3. Use Second Life, a virtual environment, as an educational intervention to increase the knowledge of safer sex practices and viral STI risk reduction. Purpose: This study aims to use Second Life, a virtual environment, as an educational intervention to increase the knowledge of safer sex practices and viral STI risk reduction. Methodology: Female college students at two large universities were recruited to complete a cross-sectional questionnaire that assessed the dependent variables of sexual intercourse refusal; ability to question potential sexual partners; condom use; and level of worry concerning contracting various STIs. The participants’ information was correlated with the events collected from the exhibit and contained within Moodle’s primary MySQL Database. Results: Demographic data were obtained from all of the research participants. The study sample was mostly female (60%) and composed of second-year college students (60%). All of the research participants were in school full-time and had never been married. Eighty percent lived off-campus in a house or apartment. Most research participants (60%) had no previous experience with Second Life. Almost half (40%) found the exhibit “very” useful. All participants reported that they learned something new and most (60%) indicated that what they learned would lead to a behavior change. Implications for women’s health: This study enrolled students who had consistent access to computers with updated systems at their respective universities. Another advantage was the excitement associated with a new, stimulating adventure. This explosive tactile experience mentally captivated participants and drew them in. Last, the use of a virtual world exceeded current barriers by increasing the scope of people who could be reached.