Facebook, Twitter may help curb HIV spread

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Washington, Oct 30 In addition to providing other potential benefits to public health, all of those tweets and Facebook posts could help curb the spread of HIV, finds a study.

Insights gleaned from social media could be used to help governments, public health departments, hospitals and caretakers monitor people's health behaviours "to know where, when, and how we might be able to prevent HIV transmission", the study proposed.

"We know that mining social media will have huge potential benefits for many areas of medicine in the future," said Sean Young from University of California, Los Angeles.

Social media with right tools in place offers a rich source of psychological and health-related data generated in an environment in which people are often willing to share freely, Young said.

People who discussed HIV prevention topics on social media were more than twice as likely to later request an HIV test, found the study.

In the context of HIV prevention, tweets have also been shown to identify people who are currently or soon to engage in sexual or drug-related risk behaviours.

Those tweets can be mapped to particular locations and related to actual HIV trends, the study said.

"Since people are already getting used to the fact that corporations are doing this, we should at least support public health researchers in using these same methods to try and improve our health and well being," Young concluded.

The study appeared in the journal Trends in Microbiology.


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