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Exploring the ‘Charlie Sheen Effect:’ Study finds uptick of web searches related to HIV prevention

February 22, 2016
Mark Dredze

Mark Dredze

A Johns Hopkins computer scientist played a key role in a new study that analyzed online news and search engine records to gauge the public’s response to actor Charlie Sheen’s Nov. 17, 2015 disclosure on NBC’s TODAY Show that he was HIV-positive.

The multi-institution study, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine, found that there were record highs in domestic news coverage of HIV and in Google searches for information about HIV and HIV prevention soon after Sheen’s announcement.

The researchers knew that the involvement of a celebrity often raises public awareness about a health issue. They wondered whether Sheen’s disclosure had shone a fresh spotlight on HIV, and in doing so produced an important public health benefit.

“Charlie Sheen’s disclosure was potentially the most significant domestic HIV prevention event ever,” said Mark Dredze, a Johns Hopkins researcher who has been a leader in the study of online data to monitor the spread of flu cases, mental illness trends, and other health topics. Dredze, an assistant research professor in the Whiting School of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science, is a coauthor of the new study.

Excerpted from The Hub.

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