Twitter To The Rescue: Can The Social Network Predict HIV Outbreaks?

We all know that HIV/AIDS is a global problem. While there is much discourse on the subject, how many of us really understand the physical and mental trauma of contracting HIV/AIDs?

We all know that HIV/AIDS is a global problem. While there is much discourse on the subject, how many of us really understand the physical and mental trauma of contracting HIV/AIDs? 

 The heartbreaking movie Dallas Buyers Club shed much needed light on the lifestyle, ostracism and health deterioration that follows a diagnosis.  Your body loses its ability to fight infections and diseases. Many HIV/AIDS patients contract painful diseases

While there is no cure for AIDS, Twitter shows promise for the future of HIV outbreaks prevention. 

A study conducted by a team of UCLA researchers found a brilliant connect between geographic outbreaks in US and tweets with phrases typical of drug-related and sexually risky behavior such as "sex" and "get high."

Algorithm for Win

The researchers wrote a clever algorithm which they used on more than 550 million gathered tweets between May 26 and Dec. 9, 2012.

The algorithm looks for suspicious phrases which indicate risky behavior. The researchers then assigned those tweets on a map and ran statistical models to test if the locations corresponded with areas where HIV cases had been reported. Remarkably, they found a noteworthy correlation.

California, Texas, New York and Florida had the most overall proportion of HIV risk-related tweets. Washington, D.C., Delaware, Louisiana and South Carolina experienced the highest per capita rate of HIV risk-related tweets.

While it is true that other studies and tools have already employed media to recognize health outbreaks, such as Google Flu Trends, Sean Young, co-director of the Center for Digital Behavior, made a valid point when he said said in a statement, "This is the first [study] to suggest that Twitter can be used to predict people's health-related behaviors and as a method for monitoring HIV risk behaviors and drug use."

Carbonated.TV
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