Through aids.gov’s Positive Spin campaign, five men chose to tell their stories of HIV diagnosis and treatment through video.
For Ken, it was a way to show that life with HIV could be normal.
For Guy, it was a statement to give others the courage to move on from their pasts.
For Uriah, it was a declaration to the world that he was not ashamed of his status.
For all of them, it was a chance to tell their real life stories to people who needed hope and direction after a positive diagnosis.
The idea for the campaign evolved out of an executive order from the President in 2013. The document emphasized the importance of the HIV Continuum of Care, the series of steps a person with HIV takes from initial diagnosis through their successful treatment with HIV medication.
The executive order noted that one fifth of the 1.2 million people with HIV in the U.S were undiagnosed, one third had no link to medical care, two thirds were not receiving ongoing care, and just one quarter had reached the stage of viral suppression—an essential part of long-term health and lower risk of transmission to others.
In addition to these challenging numbers, a disproportionate amount of young, black, gay men are affected most by HIV. For the black gay population, the lack of progress along the continuum of care is particularly noticeable: while 85% of African Americans with HIV have been diagnosed, just 40% are engaged in care, 36% have been prescribed antiretroviral therapy, and just 28% have reached viral suppression, according to the CDC.
JSI’s AIDS.gov project decided to take the CDC’s data and the Continuum of Care initiative and look at the individuals behind the numbers by having real people tell their real stories of living with HIV.
Before recording the videos, the AIDS.gov team sat down with each of the men to listen to their stories.
By using mind mapping during the interview sessions, like the notes from ICF seen below, the campaign team identified what each of them found most inspiring and engaging about the five men’s stories.
All five men were interviewed about their life stories, which were then cut down into 27 short videos about their experiences navigating the continuum of care.
The videos are housed on a unique website designed by JSI’s partner, ICF International. In addition to the five men’s stories, the website offers resources on HIV testing, including a database for finding an HIV provider, facts behind starting HIV treatment, and tips to stay healthy.
In the first month, the videos had received a total of 10, 236 views on the site and strong engagement on social media.
By engaging with young men through social media, Positive Spin connected with those most at risk for HIV in a familiar and approachable format. The campaign’s popularity demonstrated that not only were social media users interested in conversations about HIV, but that they were also willing to engage and share materials with others who could benefit.
A few of these digital interactions developed into personal engagement.
When Uriah was tagged in a Positive Spin post on Instagram, he received a direct message from one of his Instagram followers who had recently been diagnosed with HIV. Although Uriah was thousands of miles away, he was able to connect the man with a HIV provider and help him start the process of treatment.
The five men’s willingness to share their stories publicly continues to inspire others to learn their status and start treatment. By increasing the visibility of a healthy life with HIV, more people will receive treatment and move one step closer to a cure. Learn more about Positive Spin and check out the facilitator’s guide to learn how to use Positive Spin to encourage conversations and linkages to care.
Through Positive Spin and other projects, JSI is dedicated to providing resources, education, and support to those with HIV through the AIDS.gov project.