The research team partnered with social workers at drop-in centers for homeless youth, places where young people experiencing homeless can receive food, clothing, case management and mobile HIV testing. The team recruited more than 700 participants across three centers. Working with the social workers and the participants themselves, the researchers mapped the social networks of participants and used their algorithm to find leaders with the most diverse set of connections, across different network clusters.
Facilitators from the social work research team then trained the chosen peer leaders on sexual health, HIV prevention, communication skills, leadership skills, and self-care. The peer leaders were asked to promote regular HIV testing and condom use through communication with their social ties at the drop-in center. The research team found that youth enrolled in the AI-assisted strategy, dubbed CHANGE (CompreHensive Adaptive Network samplinG for social influencE), were significantly less likely to engage in unprotected sex than their peers enrolled in the observation-only group.