'Charlie Sheen Effect' spiked at-home HIV test sales, study finds

'Charlie Sheen Effect' spiked at-home HIV test sales, study finds

Actor Charlie Sheen has a bad boy reputation.

After actor Charlie Sheen announced that he was HIV-positive during an interview on NBC's Today Show on November 17, 2015, researchers found that millions of people conducted online search queries for HIV prevention and testing. The researchers found that Sheen's disclosure corresponded with millions of online search queries for HIV prevention and testing, even though neither Sheen himself nor public health leaders called for such action at the time. Middle panel shows the effect estimates for sales by week following Sheen's disclosure and World Aids Day until the increase was no longer significant. Rather than just examine search-term volume, the researchers looked at sales data for OraQuick, which is apparently the only rapid-result HIV testing kit available in the United States. Sales remained significantly higher for the following three weeks, with 8,225 more sales than expected. "However, when we compared Sheen's disclosure to other traditional awareness campaigns the "Charlie Sheen effect" is astonishing".

The team's most significant takeaway, however, is that these findings reinforce their past analyses of Google search data. "Our findings underscore the value of big media data for yielding rapid intelligence to make public health actionable and more responsive to the public it serves". "In particular, the public's health decisions are heavily influenced by public figures and reveal an opportunity for the prevention community to target health behaviors when related issues are widely publicized in the media".

Given the sheer amount of ridiculous news in the past 100 or so days, it nearly seems appropriate to report that Charlie Sheen may in fact be responsible for saving some lives. Study leaders say it may signal ways to get more Americans to know their HIV status.