Analysis: Social Media Can Help Track, Prevent Spread of HIV

October 31, 2014 in News

Social media platforms have the potential to increase the rate of HIV testing and track possible outbreaks of the sexually transmitted infection, according to an analysis published in Trends in Microbiology, Medical Daily reports.

Study Findings

The analysis found that social media users were twice as likely to seek HIV testing if they discussed it openly and accurately on social media websites, such as Twitter (Castillo, Medical Daily, 10/29).

Author Sean Young said data on HIV also can be collected from social media for:

  • Tracking the disease;
  • Predicting infections; and
  • Preventing the disease from spreading (Lees, Science World Report, 10/30).

For example, the analysis found that tweets could help reveal whether people were engaged in or planning on sexual activity. In addition, the study found that mapping trends on social media can help identify locations that could benefit the most from programs aimed at reducing the spread of HIV (Medical Daily, 10/29).

However, social media and biomedical data must be updated more frequently for tools to work effectively in predicting risk behaviors and disease, according to the analysis (Young, Trends in Microbiology, November 2014).

In a release, Young said, “We know that mining social media will have huge potential benefits for many areas of medicine in the future, but we’re still in the early stages of testing how powerful these technologies will be” (Science World Report, 10/30).

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