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Level Up

Social Networking Strategies

BlaqOut has quickly become a go-to resource for Black LGBTQ+ people seeking to obtain convenient and confidential HIV testing due in no small part to word-of-mouth. Capitalizing on the positive referrals from our members, BlaqOut created the Level Up program to recruit Black LGBTQ+ people most vulnerable to HIV and engage them in HIV testing by leveraging individual relationships and peer connections. 

Level Up uses Social Networking Strategies (SNS), an evidence-based, peer-driven recruitment strategy, to reach the highest-risk people who may be living with HIV but unaware of their serostatus. SNS is based on the underlying principle that people in the same social network share the same risks and risk behaviors for HIV. Because people in the same social network know and trust each other, they can exert influence on each other. SNS builds on the trust and influence existing within a social network to elicit positive responses to HIV testing messages from the priority population.

Using our member base, BlaqOut identifies peer mentors, called Empowerment Coaches, to become short-term recruiters. Enlisted Empowerment Coaches mentor those newly starting PrEP and act as promoters of HIV testing and recruitment ambassadors for the Let’s PrEP! program. Additionally, BlaqOut’s Empowerment Coaches tap into their own social network to identify peers who in turn refer associates that would benefit from HIV testing due to their involvement in high-risk sexual activities. 

Since vulnerable community members may be reluctant to access HIV testing, incentivizing the Empowerment Coaches and associates is key to program participation. We recognize (and abundant research has proven) that providing incentives for healthy choices is highly effective. As a result, BlaqOut’s Level Up program incentivizes participants with a mix of short- and long-term incentives that align with individual needs and preferences, creating a deeply engaged participant cohort and a successful program overall.

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