“Algorithms might Teach homeless teens to prevent HIV”

FEBRUARY 10, 2015 BY

“Algorithm” had become a dirty word. On many Web sites and social networks use algorithms to predict and meet the needs of users at the same time, they also use algorithms to manipulate user data for advertising, make money from the user’s every footstep.

But we can also use algorithms to do something good for society. Social and computer scientists at the University of Southern California, in so doing, they use math and data to prevent the spread of AIDS between street youth.

Algorithms might protect homeless teens from the danger of contacting the HIV virus by providing them a insistent education on the subject.

Algorithm, has turned into a word with devious meaning. The main purpose of this word it to help sites and social network platforms to anticipate and fulfill the needs of users but it has deviated to being used also to manipulate our data for advertising and turning into money every step we take online.

Researchers have developed a new algorithm called PSINET, with the help of artificial intelligence, it can help aid agencies identified in the homeless community, can help most people who disseminate prevention information to homeless teenagers, the algorithms to highlight friendship network diagram based on the characters. Using artificial intelligence, the program can help agencies to find the fittest person from a homeless community that could spread very useful information about the prevention of HIV, among young people, its basis being on a mapped-out network of friendships.

These certain agencies, are generally relying on the spread of and information trough words, by educating a selected group of homeless teenagers to spread knowledge to their friends, but there are some factors which limit the success of this method. With the help of the new algorithm, 60% more information could be spread than trough the classic word of mouth activities, stated researchers.

Here it is a quick explanation on how it works: experts have mapped the friends of homeless young people at My Friend’s Place, a homeless agency from Los Angeles. Every person is represented by a knob on the map, and links between knobs indicate those persons are friends. The algorithms analyses this network, and after running trough thousands of possibilities for finding the fittest person, the one with the highest reach at one point in time and after it selects a peer head.

Once this is set, social workers would teach the leader the basic information about HIV(where they can get tested for the virus, why is so important it is to wear condoms, etc.) and would also receive information regarding their network of friendships to build on the plan.

Statistics have shown that around 2 million Americans, with the ages between 13 and 24 end up every year on the streets, out of which 11% are HIV positive( a rate ten times higher than the general population). So, sharing information and educating this demographic, might be an intimidating task.

The matter is quite complicated and holds a lot of uncertainty, but instead of picking the individual most connected to other people, the algorithm is aware of whom it chose previously and in this way it opens the doors to place yet unreached, explained researchers.

The project is somehow a mixture between the technological power and the understanding the real situation of the young homeless population. So far the plan is still at the beginning and hasn’t yet been put in practice on the field, but the algorithm is the first step to fulfilling the mission.

For the moment, experts are collaborating with partners agencies, more precisely My Friend’s Place, to design an easy to use interface for the algorithm and they are hoping that by this summer they will manage to implement it in the real world.

Link: http://www.argyllfreepress.com/2015/02/10/algorithms-might-teach-homeless-teens-prevent-hiv/

Images Source:  https://medium.com/@vanscase/psinet-algorithm-find-the-key-figure-in-the-aids-information-dissemination-48978e0d54b9#.83cppkpnc

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Rusel II B. Feliscuzo



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