Twitter

Twitter Might Be Able To Track HIV Outbreaks

Researchers at UCLA found tweets with certain terms about risky behavior, like "sex" or "get high," line up with an area's number of HIV cases.

By Jamal Andress | March 2, 2014

This is gonna sound like a stretch but hear us out: Twitter might have a role to play when it comes to predicting and preventing an HIV outbreak. 

According to a UCLA study, Twitter can be used to track HIV incidence and drug related behaviors. Doctors say the idea is to find the problem area and address it in order to prevent outbreaks. 

Researchers collected about 550 million tweets between May 26th and December 9th of 2012 specifically looking for words and phrases like "sex" or "get high" that could potentially mean risky behaviors. 

Researchers plotted the tweets with those phrases on a map comparing which areas had the most HIV cases with which areas had the most risky behavior tweets. (Via AIDSVu.org)

After plotting the two together researchers found what they called a "significant relationship" between the risky behavior tweets and the number of HIV cases in the area. 

If the method sounds familiar, that's because it's pretty similar to a previous study conducted at John Hopkins University where researchers used tweets associated with the flu to help track the spread of illness. (Via Germ Tracker)

The one draw back of the study and its findings is that the HIV data comes from 2009. Researchers say their next step is to find more recent data on HIV and compare that with risky behavior tweets. 

The states with the highest per capita rate of HIV risk related tweets were Utah, North Dakota and Nevada. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

  TRENDING IN Sci/Health NEWS
Running back Tony DorsettWATCHLIST
Hans Holbein the Younger / Getty Images

What King Henry VIII And Some NFL Players Might Have In Common

Adélie penguins in Antartica.WATCHLIST
Eli Duke / CC BY 2.0

Giant Iceberg Traps Penguin Colony, Killing 150,000 Birds

An artist's rendition of the European Space Agency's Philae lander.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / ESA

Philae Lander Is Likely Silent Forever On The Dark Side Of A Comet

High school and middle school teachers might not know the best way to teach their students about global warming, according to a recent study.WATCHLIST
Mikael Miettinen / CC BY 2.0

Apparently, Teachers Aren't Sure How To Teach Climate Change

A mom breast-feeding at the Melbourne Zoo.WATCHLIST
Elizabeth Hunt Burrett

Breast-Feeding Mom Shares Moment With Orangutan At The Zoo

A group of cyclists travel through thick smog in China.WATCHLIST
Getty Images

Severe Air Pollution Might Have Killed Millions Worldwide

Aedes aegypti mosquitos.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Mario Tama

Hawaii Governor Signs Emergency Measure To Fight Zika Virus

Heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are displayed.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Scott Olson

Want To Get Your Research Paper Some Press? Tie It To Valentine's Day

A person praying.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Chung Sung-Jun

Belief In A 'Punishing' God Might've Helped Societies Get Bigger

IKO Creative prosthetic systemWATCHLIST
IKO

Kids Might Build Their Prostheses With Lego Bricks In The Future

A group of children play at The Little Gym.WATCHLIST
Parker Knight / CC BY 2.0

Ending Racism Means Integrating Daycare

Scientist working at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Dan Kitwood

A New Group Is Dedicated To Double-Checking Scientists' Work

A row of antibiotic pill bottlesWATCHLIST
Getty Images / Joe Raedle

Looking To The Ocean Floor For New Antibiotics

Gravitational waves in a simulation of two black holes mergingWATCHLIST
NASA

What's So Exciting About Gravitational Waves?

Compared to the rest of the national budget, NASA's funding is tiny.WATCHLIST
NASA, Newsy / Evan Thomas

What NASA Would Fund With Its Tiny $19B Wish List

Asian Elephant in IndiaWATCHLIST
Thangaraj Kumaravel / CC BY 2.0

Why Are Elephants Wandering Into Indian Towns?

Gravitational waves from two stars mergingWATCHLIST
NASA

Einstein Was Right: Scientists Just Showed Gravitational Waves Exist

More than 3,400 kids reportedly swallowed batteries in 2010, according to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.WATCHLIST
yoppy / CC BY 2.0

Parents Share Horror Stories After Toddlers Swallow Button Batteries

A video of a man reading while eating.WATCHLIST
Videoblocks

High School Degree, Healthy Heart Might Lower Your Risk For Dementia

Artist rendering of newly researched galaxies.WATCHLIST
International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research

Hundreds Of Galaxies Were Hiding Behind The Milky Way

Medical MarijuanaWATCHLIST
Getty Images / David McNew

Medical Marijuana Might Be Legalized In Australia Really Soon

A man kisses his horse.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Julian Herbert

Researchers Say Horses Can Recognize Our Facial Expressions

With so many working to fix racial bias in adults, we spoke with a neuroscience researcher who says we may need to focus our attention on kids instead In this file photograph taken on March 20, 2007, a two-week-old boy finds his feet in his new world. Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced, April 3, 2007 that for the first time, mothers-to-be will have a guarantee that the NHS will provide them with a full range of birthing choices - including home births - and a midwife they know and trust to care for them. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Christopher Furlong

Why Fixing Racial Biases Starts With Babies

Senior citizens walk along Llandudno Promenade on September 8, 2014 in Llandudno, Wales.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Christopher Furlong

Why Live Forever? Life Is Long Enough

Senior citizens relax on Llandudno Promenade on September 8, 2014 in Llandudno, Wales.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Christopher Furlong

Want To Live Forever? We Should Cure Aging

The box is filled with vegetables that are still good to eat, but might look a little odd from the outside. They're being sold at a cheap price.WATCHLIST
ASDA

Store Hopes 'Wonky Veg Box' Will Reduce Waste Of Imperfect Vegetables

A little girl poses for a photograph next to a stranded sperm whaleWATCHLIST
Getty Images / Ben Pruchnie

Scientists Offer Theory As To What Killed 30 Sperm Whales

The CRAM (compressible robot with articulated mechanisms) from the PolyPEDAL Lab at UC Berkeley.WATCHLIST
University of California, Berkeley / PolyPEDAL Lab

Cockroach-Inspired Robot Can Squeeze Into Some Tight Spaces

A rare albino green sea turtle leaves its nest.WATCHLIST
Facebook / Coolum District Coast Care Group

Surprise! This Baby Green Turtle Isn't Green At All

Aedes aegypti mosquitos are seen in a lab at the Fiocruz institute on January 26, 2016 in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Mario Tama

The White House Is Asking For $1.8B To Counter The Zika Virus