After celebrity Charlie Sheen publicly admitted that he tested positive for HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, online search for the dreaded virus has exponentially spiked worldwide. This, according to some experts, is a clear indication that celebrities’ influence on raising awareness on HIV is invaluable.
Professor John Ayers from the San Diego State University found through online analytic that internet queries on HIV related information has spiked the same day that Sheen disclosed his HIV status, a report from the San Diego Union Tribune shows.
With this, Ayers has urged HIV researchers to look into the situation and to better understand the trend. Although news about celebrities disclosing their HIV status is not something new, what interests the researchers is the fact that it actually affects public behavior. On the same day that Sheen disclosed his HIV status was the same day that HIV-related searches online hit an all-time high in the history of HIV research.
According to data gathered by Ayer’s team together with his co-researcher Eric Leas, it showed that online searches in the US that pertain to HIV related information has increased by 265 percent. Sheen disclosed his HIV status on the “Today” show last Nov 17, 2015. Since then, Sheen has created a fuss not only within the Hollywood, but also among the netizens.
“The Charlie Sheen effect is already the largest single driver of awareness and engagement online with HIV domestically. The goal now needs to be to meet the needs of the people who are engaged. But there’s not a single HIV-prevention program that’s using the Charlie Sheen story,” Ayers was quoted as saying by the San Diego Union Tribune.
Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are at least 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States alone. Around 12.8 percent of which, or 1 out of 8, are unaware of their HIV status. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization reported that the number of people living with HIV in the world has reached to 37 million, with 54 percent of them are aware of their HIV status.