To combat two major obstacles to HIV preventionstigma associated with the infection and complacency about the epidemicthe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched Let's Stop HIV Together, a national communication campaign that gives voice to Americans living with HIV, and to their loved ones.
The campaign, which includes local and national advertising and social media, is being launched just prior to the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C.
"In the fight against HIV, stigma and complacency are among our most insidious opponents," says Kevin Fenton, MD, director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention. "This campaign reminds us that HIV affects every corner of society, and that it will take every one of usregardless of HIV status, gender, race or sexual orientationworking together to stop this epidemic."
The campaign features people living with HIV standing with their friends and family, and calling on all Americans to join the fight against the disease. The campaign will reach millions of Americans through print, online and outdoor advertisements and through social media, including Facebook and Twitter. Outdoor and transit ads began running this week in six cities heavily affected by HIVAtlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City and Washington, D.C.with 21 other cities to be added later in 2012.
"For someone with HIV, love and acceptance can mean the difference between life and death," says Jamar Rogers, a semifinalist on NBC's singing competition, "The Voice," who revealed on the show that he is HIV-positive. Rogers appears in the Let's Stop HIV Together campaign with his mother, Danielle. "I'm healthy today because of the love and support of my mother, family and friends, who gave me the courage to get the care and treatment that will keep me singing for decades to come."
More than three decades after the first reported AIDS cases, research shows that while most Americans understand how HIV is transmitted, fear, discrimination and misperceptions continue to hamper progress against the disease. For example, a 2011 Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that many Americans continue to report discomfort at the idea of interacting with those who are HIVpositive, despite the fact that HIV cannot be transmitted by saliva, sweat, tears or casual contact.
"Stigma remains a major barrier to HIV testing, condom use and other prevention strategies. It also discourages those living with HIV from seeking the care and treatment they need to stay healthy and avoid transmitting HIV to others," says Jonathan Mermin, MD, director of CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. "If we can overcome stigma and misperceptions about HIV, we can lift these barriers and save lives."
In addition to fighting stigma, Let's Stop HIV Together combats complacency by showing that the HIV epidemic touches every corner of American society, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. An estimated 1.1 million Americans live with HIV, and approximately 50,000 more become infected each year, yet the U.S. epidemic is far less visible today than in the past. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation survey, the proportion of Americans who saw or read about HIV in the United States fell by nearly half from 2004 to 2011. As a result, many people may not realize the extent of today's epidemic or recognize their own risk of infection.
Let's Stop HIV Together is the latest campaign of CDC's Act Against AIDS initiative, a five-year national communication effort that seeks to draw attention to the HIV crisis in the United States. The campaign helps advance the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which calls for reducing new infections, reducing stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV, and educating Americans about the threat of HIV and how to prevent it. Additional Act Against AIDS campaigns focus on populations at increased risk for HIV such as African-American women and gay and bisexual men, as well as on health care providers who can help those at risk get tested and linked to care while helping those infected avoid transmitting HIV to their partners.
For more information about Let's Stop HIV Together, visit www.ActAgainstAIDS.org.