Worldwide there are an estimated 36.9 million people with HIV of which 25% do not know their status. The following study assesses the effect of AIDS awareness day on internet search activity for HIV, and analyses other causes of spikes in internet search activity.


Google trends was used to examine search trends for HIV, over the past 5 years. These were correlated with ‘’AIDS’ awareness day’’ to assess the effect of this campaign on public interest. Search trends for the United Kingdom were also analysed. Repeated measures ANOVA and Tukey post-hoc analyses were performed to assess for significant differences in activity.


There are increased levels of search activity for HIV in the two weeks surrounding AIDS awareness day on a worldwide level consistently over a 5-year period (p<0.0001). However, in the United Kingdom there is no significant increase compared to the rest of the year. The event corresponding to the largest spike in HIV search activity was the announcement by Charlie Sheen of his HIV status. A spike in search activity was also seen in the United Kingdom corresponding with the MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle announcing his HIV-positive status, this was higher than observed on AIDS awareness day in the UK 2 days later.


On a worldwide level AIDS awareness week is achieving it’s aims of increasing public interest in HIV. However, in the United Kingdom, the announcement by public figures of their HIV-positive status appears to have a greater effect on stimulating public interest.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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