iSMA honors World AIDS Day in Washington DC

Byline - Kelley Dennings, Michelle Jiles

On December 1 the iSMA DC networking group met to honor World AIDS Day. HIV and AIDS has been an important issue since the first diagnosis in 1981. The event was held at Ogilvy Washington and included time for networking and speakers. Two excellent social marketers, Tom Beall and Candace Webb, shared not only information about their professionally related campaigns but touching personal stories.

Experienced and new social change marketers packed the Ogilvy meeting room. Everyone wearing their red ribbons was a unifier: some were adults during the HIV/AIDS crisis, some matured during the epidemic, and for many AIDS has always been around.

The first speaker was iSMA board member Tom Beall, formerly with Ogilvy. His remarks gave a historical perspective and discussed the America Responds to AIDS campaign (ARTA). Sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control, ARTA encompassed nine years from 1986-1995, unprecedented for many campaigns. Tom’s message highlighted the three things needed when undertaking any endeavor, but especially monumental attitude and behavior changes during a crisis. 

  • Passion
  • Persistence
  • Patience

The infection personally affected Tom and others working on the campaign. ARTA was more than a job (Passion). The environment at the time was panicked, yet very traditional. Government leaders and organizers were resistant to addressing sexual and drug-use health. That made messaging very difficult (Persistence). There was also the necessary but detailed process of developing a campaign: 

  • Developing formative research
  • Creating targeted audience messages
  • Testing messages and materials
  • Monitoring, evaluating, and fine tuning messages
  • Applying lessons learned

The team had to take a multifaceted approach of public service advertising, enlisting community programs, and ensuring message reinforcement (Patience). ARTA put risk reduction and condom use into everyday conversations and made testing and treatment part of state infrastructures. 

The second speaker was Candace Webb, with the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program. She also told a personal story about how AIDS affected her as a young person and set her on a trajectory to work for change. Her perspective was one of the here-and-now. She grounded the group in current HIV/AIDS statistics, similar to these below:

  • In 2012, the estimated number of deaths of persons with diagnosed HIV infection ever classified as stage 3 (AIDS) in the United States was 13,712.
  • At the end of 2012, an estimated 1.2 million persons aged 13 and older were living with HIV infection in the United States, including 156,300 (12.8%) persons whose infections had not been diagnosed.
  • HIV/AIDS is disproportionately higher in African Americans.
  • AIDS is most frequently transmitted through male-to-male sexual contact, then via heterosexual contact and finally via injection drug use or a combination of all.
  • The highest number of HIV infection diagnoses is in Florida (http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/statistics/overview/index.html).

She highlighted a number of contemporary HIV social marketing campaigns:

  • The National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020. This campaign has unified the movement by asking all Federal agencies to develop a Federal Action Plan to guide a national strategy. It has 4 goals – reduce the number of HIV infections, improve access to care and health outcomes, reduce HIV-related health disparities and achieve a more coordinated national response.
  • Positive Spin: Real Stories across the HIV Care Continuum. This campaign is created for an African American male target audience.
  • 25th Anniversary of the Ryan White/HIV AIDS program. Candace showed a number of excellent videos describing the care that this program has taken to support those living with HIV and AIDS.  See for yourself here - http://hab.hrsa.gov/ryanwhite25/.

She finished the presentation by providing the group with various HIV resources for social marketers such as AIDS.gov, AIDSVu, the CDC and others.