Use of social media big data as a novel HIV surveillance tool in South Africa
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Sub-Saharan Africa has been heavily impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Social data (e.g., social media, internet search, wearable device, etc) show great promise assisting in public health and HIV surveillance. However, research on this topic has primarily focused in higher resource settings, such as the United States. It is especially important to study the prevalence and potential use of these data sources and tools in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), such as Sub-Saharan Africa, which have been heavily impacted by the HIV epidemic, to determine the feasibility of using these technologies as surveillance and intervention tools. Accordingly, we 1) described the prevalence and characteristics of various social technologies within South Africa, 2) using Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube as a case study, analyzed the prevalence and patterns of social media use related to HIV risk in South Africa, and 3) mapped and statistically tested differences in HIV-related social media posts within regions of South Africa. Geocoded data were collected over a three-week period in 2018 (654,373 tweets, 90,410 Instagram posts and 14,133 YouTube videos with 1,121 comments). Of all tweets, 4,524 (0.7%) were found to related to HIV and AIDS. The percentage was similar for Instagram 95 (0.7%) but significantly lower for YouTube 18 (0.1%). We found regional differences in prevalence and use of social media related to HIV. We discuss the implication of data from these technologies in surveillance and interventions
within South Africa and other LMICs.