Twitter Being Integrated into HIV Tracking and Research
March 12, 2014
While Twitter is most often used for socializing and online advertising, many sectors of the healthcare field are testing ways to incorporate social media platforms for practical purposes.
Today, many healthcare professionals are looking for ways to educate individuals through social media. Recent studies performed at UCLA show that Twitter can be used to track HIV outbreaks.
Since Twitter is a real-time tool that allows for public viewing, it is easy to collect data and trends. This allows the team at UCLA to identify HIV related posts and track them by state and region.
In the study, the research team tracked approximately 9,800 tweets that were drug and sex related and found a connection between those topics and HIV outbreaks. What this means is that state and local health departments may be able to utilize this data to monitor, detect, and respond to both disease outbreaks and HIV outbreaks.
While the insight gathered from Twitter is quite valuable, it is important to remember that not all infected with HIV have been diagnosed. This means that even in areas of outbreak, the full extent cannot be accurately determined. However, if a city or state can detect an increase in HIV outbreaks, they can increase awareness and encourage testing.
Social media and search engine results have also been used to track other diseases and outbreaks, such as an increase in Google searches for the flu in 2008 helping to track areas at higher risk of contracting the flu.
Though sharing health related and personal information on social media has many downsides, it also has some positives too when it comes to tracking outbreaks and, potentially, preventing them from getting worse.