#HIV: Alignment of HIV-Related Visual Content on Instagram with Public Health Priorities in the US

Alicia L. Nobles, Eric C. Leas, Carl A. Latkin, Mark Dredze, Steffanie A. Strathdee, John W. Ayers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Instagram, with more than 1 billion monthly users, is the go-to social media platform to chronicle one’s life via images, but how are people using the platform to present visual content about HIV? We analyzed public Instagram posts containing the hashtag “#HIV” (because they are self-tagged as related to HIV) between January 2017 and July 2018. We described the prevalence of co-occurring hashtags and explored thematic concepts in the images using automated image recognition and topic modeling. Twenty-eight percent of all #HIV posts included hashtags focused on awareness, followed by LGBTQ (24.5%) and living with HIV (17.9%). However, specific strategies were rarely cited, including testing (10.8%), treatment (10.3%), PrEP (6.2%) and condoms (4.1%). Image analyses revealed 44.5% of posts included infographics followed by people (21.3%) thereby humanizing HIV and stigmatized populations and promoting community mobilization. Novel content such as the handwriting image-theme (3.8%) where posters shared their HIV test results appeared. We discuss how this visual content aligns with public health priorities to reduce HIV in the US and the novel, organic messages that public health could help amplify.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2045-2053
Number of pages9
JournalAIDS and behavior
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • Big data
  • Digital health
  • HIV
  • Health surveillance
  • Social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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