Slots are purely looked at for entertainment. But a Yale School of Public Health study shows that slot machines could be used for HIV testing.
Let’s discuss why this is the case below while also covering how the process works.
Slots Algorithm Helps in HIV Testing
Gregg Gonsalves, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at Yale, discussed how slot machines can help the battle against HIV.
“When you walk into a casino and see a row of slot machines, how do you decide which one to play and when it’s time to switch to another?” asks Gonsalves. “What’s the best strategy to maximize your winnings?
“Mathematicians have created strategies called “bandit” algorithms to answer these questions. And we’ve used one of them as the basis for our approach to HIV testing.”
Slots can Make Finding HIV Hotspots Easier
Some AIDS programs are focusing on “hotspots” of HIV infection. But there’s no reliable way to pinpiont these hotspots with regard to HIV testing.
“Different methods have been proposed to identify hotspots, but there is no consensus on where to look,” Gonsalves said.
“Even setting up where common sense dictates—like places with high HIV prevalence or concentrations of people at risk of infection—doesn’t guarantee a high yield of new diagnoses.”
This is why Gonsalves has tried getting hotspots to reveal themselves through a bandit algorithm called Thompson Sampling (TS).
A TS gambling strategy involves making wagers based on current information. It also collects info from successes and failures when the slot machine is being used.
But rather than applying this to slots, the bandit algorithm gives AIDS programs the chance to select hotspots. And these hotspots are based on the odds of testing success in that particular area.
“If you were using Thompson Sampling in a casino, a player wouldn’t make a large bet on one machine.” Gonsalves added, “They would play for a while to hone in on the best machine to play their quarters.”
As many as 1.2 million Americans have undiagnosed HIV. So it’s definitely good that the Yale School of Public Health is making advances in detection.