Exploring HIV-AIDS interests in the MENA region using Internet based searches
Due to the scarcity of official data on sexually transmitted diseases in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA), it becomes important to seek alternative indications on the online information interests and possible spread of such diseases. This paper uses news stories from 10 Arabic media outlets, Wikipedia views, and data from Google Trends as well as social media on the HIV-AIDS epidemic. In order to investigate whether Internet searches are driven or influenced by media coverage, the correlation between media coverage and Internet searches is examined. The results indicate that there are very weak to moderate correlations between the two as media coverage of HIV-AIDS is not a good indicator of public attention. Data sources that are more accessible, like Google and Wikipedia searches and social media, can provide a better understanding of public information interests. Also, data retrieved from Google Trends in relation to the search terms "AIDS treatment" and "AIDS symptoms" provide important indicators on the top cities from which searches often originate. The findings of the study can aid health practitioners in identifying interest in and awareness of HIV-AIDS in the MENA region.