'Because even the placement of a comma might be important': Expertise, filtered embodiment and social capital in online sexual health promotion

The Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) is a leading UK HIV and sexual health organization, and community outreach and support remain a key tenet of the charity’s philosophy. Outreach work includes campaign drives in bars, clubs and saunas, peer-led workshops, support groups, condom distribution in community venues and one-to-one intervention programmes to help raise HIV/ AIDS awareness. But what happens to community activism and outreach when the community one seeks to engage moves online? In this article, we report on a study capturing the experiences of workers engaged in THT’s digital outreach service, Netreach. Using ethnographic and other qualitative methods, we identify the shifting nature of health promotion outreach work and the changes in expert–client relationship that occur when community outreach takes place on digital platforms. We identify how issues of (dis)embodiment, expertise and cultural capital play a role in determining the success – or failure – of online outreach work.