Six Months In: The @NLM_HIVplus50 Experience

Content From: Andrew Plumer, MLA, Outreach Librarian, Specialized Information Services, National Library of MedicinePublished: July 16, 20133 min read




Whether using Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or other platforms, each institution using new media has an experience or “story” to share. Today, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) offers blog readers a chapter in our new media “story”. NLM has always been in the forefront of providing information about HIV/AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic. In line with NLM’s mission in January 2013. Our objectives are to provide links to content and encourage the sharing of ideas about the issues of HIV/AIDS among persons aged 50 or older.


It is estimated that by 2020 over 50% of persons living with HIV infection would be age 50 years or olderExit Disclaimer. The graying of the epidemic has brought new interest in the effects of medication usage and placed attention on the intersection of the epidemic with normal aging processes. As noted in this NIH blog post about HIV and aging, “with good adherence to ART, many HIV-infected persons can expect to live to an older age.”

Why Twitter?

As an Outreach Librarian experienced in HIV/AIDS information dissemination, I became interested in this issue because of the many reports presented at the XIX International AIDS Conference on AIDS in 2012. Several personal accounts of aging with HIV sharpened the human side of the story for me. After searching relevant literature it became clear to me that more emphasis is needed in this arena.

NLM has had great success in using Twitter as a means of outreach and social engagement, such as through our NLM_SIS handle which tweets to professionals about toxicology, environmental health, drug and consumer product information, and disaster/emergency preparedness and response resources. Having managed the NLM_SISExit Disclaimer Twitter handle since 2012, I looked at the usage of Twitter based on the Pew Internet and American Life ProjectExit Disclaimer. Though the rate of those aged 50 and over using Twitter is lower than rates of use reported by other age ranges, the next closest demographic, 30 to 49 year-olds, will most likely carry their information seeking behaviors with them as they age. The intersection of the demographics of the HIV epidemic and Twitter usage suggested value in developing and growing a new @NLM_HIVplus50 handle.

NLM staff decided rather than targeting outreach on Twitter to those affected it would be worthwhile to engage and share NLM and external resources through Twitter with AIDS service organizations, federal, state and local government agencies, and others on the frontlines when dealing with HIV and aging.

Managing Our Handle

Based on NLM’s experience with our other Twitter handles, NLM_HIVplus50 posts two original tweets and at least four retweets per day. All original tweets link to a resource. The retweets are taken from lists created on Twitter based on groups that NLM_HIVplus50 follows. We are fortunate that the NLM can link to both governmental and nongovernmental content as well as international resources. All nongovernmental content is vetted by NLM librarians and we review each reference to a non-federal handle according to our social media criteria. All original tweets are scheduled using Hoot Suite, which we also use for analytics.

Moving Ahead with Social Media

Please follow us on Twitter. If you have created content addressing our knowledge of the HIV/AIDS epidemic among people aged 50 and over that you would like us to consider retweeting, please direct message us.

We are looking forward to evaluating communication and engagement with our @NLM_HIVplus50 handle. As we evolve our Twitter presence, we will look at lessons from our Twitter experience to inform potential development of a Facebook page for HIVplus50. We’ll tweet to announce our page. We hope you will engage with us on Twitter and beyond.

Editor’s note: For more resources about HIV and aging, the HIV/AIDS observance days (including National HIV and Aging Awareness Day) and using new media in response to HIV, visit