Breakthrough Patient Recruitment

: When Health Communication Has a Conscience, We All Learn Something

When Health Communication Has a Conscience, We All Learn Something

Managing Editor

We are 5 days into 2016. 2016, which means we're now in the second half of the decade. But we're still tied to a different decade--the decade when HIV and AIDS first dominated the news with fears about contraction and death from this terrifying new disease. It was the 1980s, and we didn't know what we know now. We didn't know that new treatment options would mean that people would be able to live long and relatively healthy lives with HIV. We didn't know how perfectly safe it is to hug or kiss someone with HIV. We didn't know that 30 years later, we would be talking less about death rates and more about a completely different--and yet still tragic--aspect of HIV: stigma.

The fact that people with HIV often live with stigma and prejudice regarding the disease is not surprising. There remains mystery about the disease, and, let's face it, unless you are directly affected by the disease, you're probably not working too hard to learn more or to dispel any myths about HIV or AIDS. And that's a shame.

But among continued stigma and prejudice has arisen a desire to change the way people think about HIV and AIDS, and I was thrilled to see a campaign taking on the issue of HIV stigma. Ogilvy Brasil last year launched an ad for the NGO Life Support Group with the goal of, "…changing how people think about HIV by putting the virus right in front of them."

The campaign features posters, each with a drop of blood and the following text:"My measurements are 40 by 60 centimeters. I was printed on high brightness paper. And my weight is 250 grams. I'm just like any other poster. Except for one thing: I'm HIV positive. It's exactly what you've just read. I'm living with the virus. At this point you may be taking a step back, wondering if I offer any danger."

The posters are meant to make the reader take stock of how they feel--about this poster and yes, about people who are HIV positive. Displayed on the streets of São Paulo, the posters were seen by hundreds of people, and, according to the ad, something really cool began to happen. "People reached out and touched the poster, going straight for the drop of dried blood." It's hard to say why, but in watching the ad, it's easy to see that many people were moved by the posters and were even more so when they learned that the people from the ad were actually there, watching the reactions of the readers.

There remains no cure for HIV/AIDS, and the World Health Organization estimates that approximately 35 million people around the world are living with HIV. Clinical researchers are continuing to study and develop new treatment options for the disease. While our public health counterparts work to stop the spread of the disease itself, as health communicators our part of the fight it to continue to produce ads like this one from Ogilvy Brasil and help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS stigma, because as the ad so poignantly says, "If prejudice is an illness, information is the cure."

To view the ad, click on the image below.

HIV stigma

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The Healthy(ist) blog is a platform to share, learn about, and debate topics related to public and social health, scientific research, health communications, and behavior change.
We invite and encourage anyone interested in current public health and health communication trends and issues to join MMG's contributing bloggers in adding their voice to the ongoing discussion about how we can advance health, together.

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