Latest Research: Characterizing HIV discussions and engagement on Twitter

I am pleased to share my latest collaborative research with scholars from Finland and Italy. The research has been published in the Health and Technology journal and is titled, Characterizing HIV discussions and engagement on Twitter. The study examines social media data to understand HIV related discussions and engagements.

The abstract of the study is as follows:

The novel settings provided by social media facilitate users to seek and share information on a wide array of subjects, including healthcare and wellness. Analyzing health-related opinions and discussions on these platforms complement traditional public health surveillance systems to support timely and effective interventions. This study aims to characterize the HIV-related conversations on Twitter by identifying the prevalent topics and the key events and actors involved in these discussions. Through Twitter API, we collected tweets containing the hashtag #HIV for a one-year period. After pre-processing the collected data, we conducted engagement analysis, temporal analysis, and topic modeling algorithm on the analytical sample (n = 122,807). Tweets by HIV/AIDS/LGBTQ activists and physicians received the highest level of engagement. An upsurge in tweet volume and engagement was observed during global and local events such as World Aids Day and HIV/AIDS awareness and testing days for trans-genders, blacks, women, and the aged population. Eight topics were identified that include “stigma”, “prevention”, “epidemic in the developing countries”, “World Aids Day”, “treatment”, “events”, “PrEP”, and “testing”. Social media discussions offer a nuanced understanding of public opinions, beliefs, and sentiments about numerous health-related issues. The current study reports various dimensions of HIV-related posts on Twitter. Based on the findings, public health agencies and pertinent entities need to proactively use Twitter and other social media by engaging the public through involving influencers. The undertaken methodological choices may be applied to further assess HIV discourse on other popular social media platforms.

The study can be cited as follows:

Malik, A., Antonino, A., Khan, M.L. et al. Characterizing HIV discussions and engagement on Twitter. Health Technol. (2021).

We conclude as follows:

The current study utilized publicly available Twitter data on HIV by applying a data-driven approach to understand the conversations and key entities and events driving the engagement. Findings from the current study provide actionable insights that may further support enhancing awareness and prevention messaging, developing testing services, bolstering PrEP uptake, and optimizing clinical and community interventions. The wide adoption of social media and its use for health purposes as a participatory and interactive source hold significant implications for HIV education, care, and prevention efforts. Social media holds great potential in digital surveillance and interventions related to HIV as it is rather easier to reach diverse, underserved, ethnic, and high-risk groups. Effective use of social media by offering relevant, timely, and factual information and interventions can be highly cost-effective and can change individual behaviors and social norms about HIV.

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