Charlie Sheen announced he was HIV positive last November and apparently that served as the best public-service announcement—ever. A new study shows that online searches about HIV quadrupled beyond the usual number the day after Sheen made his announcement.
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“Charlie Sheen’s disclosure is potentially the most significant domestic HIV prevention event in the last decade,” said study author John Ayers, a research professor with the Graduate School of Public Health at San Diego State University. He and his colleagues analyzed news stories and Google searches in the years before Sheen’s announcement and in the weeks afterward. The study is published in this month’s JAMA Internal Medicine.
According to their findings, English-language news stories available on the Internet about HIV went from 67 per 1,000 in 2004 to 12 per 1,000 in 2015. That number grew by 265% on the day Sheen announced he had HIV. That day there were 2.8 million more Google searches than usual, which included the term “HIV” and 1.3 million searches included search terms seeking information about condoms, HIV symptoms and HIV testing.