The “Charlie Sheen Effect” On HIV

We all saw the revelation from Charlie Sheen recently, and apparently, his coming out about his HIV positive status had quite the impact.

Research has revealed that Google searches for HIV hit a record high in the US in the hours following Charlie Sheen’s announcement.

This was more than a small increase, as investigators found 2.75 million more searches than expected based on previous trends. There was also a huge increase in Google searches for condoms, HIV symptoms and testing following the announcement.

Researchers are now saying that we need to capitalise on what they call the “Charlie Sheen effect” to further raise awareness.

In terms of percentage, this 2.75m increase in searches was 417% higher than normal, where as condom related searches such as “buy condoms” increased 75%. HIV symptoms like “signs of HIV” and HIV testing, such as “find HIV testing” increased 540% and 214% respectively. These numbers remained higher for roughly three days.

Researcher Professor John Ayers from San Diego State University, who spoke in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, had this to say: “While no one should be forced to reveal their HIV status and all diagnoses are tragic, Sheen’s disclosure may benefit public health by potentially helping many learn more about HIV and HIV prevention. More must be done to make this benefit larger and lasting.”

Alex Sparrowhawk, Membership Officer of Terrence Higgins Trust, also agreed that Charlie’s reveal of his HIV positive status had an effect, both in the US and worldwide.

“As the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity, Terrence Higgins Trust website had its busiest day ever on 17 November, with almost 20,000 page views. The most popular covered ‘Stages of HIV infection’, ‘Getting Help Now’ and ‘What are HIV and AIDS’?”

“There is definitely more work to be done in educating the public on HIV, but also in how the media report on HIV. It must be more widely understood as the long-term manageable health condition that it now is.”

Obviously, Charlie is not the first celebrity to have an effect on public behaviour. We also saw similar occurrences with Angelina Jolie, who’s experiences caused an uptick in awareness of breast removal and reconstruction ops. There was also the case of Big Brother star Jade Goody, who’s death from cervical cancer caused an uptake in screening for the disease.

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Apparently, Charlie Sheen's revelation about his HIV had a positive effect on awareness.