Atlanta is Greater Than AIDS

FCL co-sponsored its second health event, which was held in support of National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) on June 25. I was linked up with a few local organizations since the Spring. My goal: to offer PR and marketing services in support of an event for NHTD and co-sponser events. I spoke with a few local organizations, including the Fulton County Health Department, and no one had begun planning any events. I had a meeting with a local nonprofit and they were very enthused – but, for some reason I was dead set on guiding them to plan an event where ‘the people were’. In my opinion, it does not make efficient sense to plan a flawless health event (or offer health services) and expect people to come to you. Health events are already at a disadvantage: most people are disengaged when it comes to their health. When it comes to choosing between spontaneously (or even proactively) choosing to go to an health clinic for a free STD test or going to Lenox Mall, the latter will most always win. I am even biased. Who wants to be preached to – or actually confront issues like this in their leisure time? Not me.

Anyhoo.

So, I was contacted by the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Metro Atlanta chapter, and, shortly afterwords, began working as a co-sponsor of a NHTD event – The Conversation: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You: An STD/HIV Community Town Hall Meeting. I was so amped lol. It was a good experience overall. Our planning time was short, we tried to engage a few local celebrities to not avail – dealing with that negotiation process takes a special soul. I even suggested that we link efforts with an existing national health campaign, Greater Than AIDS – which is sponsored by CDC, the Kaiser Family Foundation and others. Thus, the Atlanta is Greater Than AIDS Campaign was born. This event was going to be the official launch for the campaign. So amped.  Over the course of (*cough*) 3 weeks, we placed a billboard in downtown Atlanta, blasted to a popular urban promotions network, and promoted the event on several local media sites. The National Greater Than AIDS campaign even support our promotional efforts on Twitter and Facebook and linked us with Reggie, Dionne, and Freda – spokespersons from the Greater Than AIDS campaign, who participated in the Deciding Moments portion (click their names to read their stories). *Powerful Stories* To top it off, we were granted spots on Atlanta’s big radio stations, The Frank and Wanda Morning Show on V103 FM, and Powertalk with Lorraine Jaques White on WAOK 1380 AM. The interview on Frank and Wanda was aired later that night on The Frank and Wanda Morning Show television series on the CW (local Atlanta). We are talking major media message coverage and reach – Goal attained, right? Brace yourself, soapbox moment coming…

Here is some background on the event, in case you are interested:

Atlanta Is Greater Than AIDS: HIV began one person at a time and it will end one person at a time.

The Problem

The reality is that the rate of STDs is continuously higher in African Americans than any other race/ethnicity in the US. According to a recent report from the CDC, HIV prevalence rates among blacks or African Americans were approximately eight times the rate among whites. Georgia’s HIV/AIDS Reporting System (eHARS), reports that 78% of HIV (not-AIDS) cases diagnosed in 2008 were among African Americans, who make up only 30% of Georgia’s population. Even further, metro Atlanta has 64% of all AIDS cases in Georgia. We encourage event participants to share their voice and to take a stand – Atlanta is Greater Than AIDS.

The panelists included community leaders from various fields such as medical experts, HIV/AIDS activists, clergy, celebrities and relationship experts.   National HIV/AIDS Testing Day is June 27, 2011. June 2011 marks the 30th anniversary since the first cases of HIV were reported. This event supported national commemoration activities.

Invited Panelists

  • Silas “Si Man Baby” Alexander, Magic 107.5 FM – Moderator
  • Michelle Allen, State STD Office Director, Georgia Department of Community Health
  • Dr. Madeline Sutton, Certified Obstetrician/Gynecologist and Medical Epidemiologist & Team Lead for Minority HIV/AIDS Research Initiative (MARI), CDC
  • Dr. Fleda Jackson – President of Majaica LLC and Affiliated Professor of Applied Public Health at the Rollins School of Health at Emory University
  • Jevon Gibson, MA, CEO Community Health Solutions LLC

So what is my beef?

After reviewing our post-event media summary, we reached an estimated half a million people in Atlanta with our promotional efforts (paid and unpaid) – yet, the attendance was so poor. A great event, nonetheless, but where were all the people? I was feeling some kind of way for a couple of days but no one was surprised at the turn out. I was joking with Reggie (Greater Than AIDS campaign spokesperson) and he said, to get the people out you have to partner with a celebrity, offer free food, and make sure that your location is ideal (sound familiar?). But, why does it take all of that? I love what I do, lawd knows, but why work this hard? On this past Saturday, I caught an old episode of BET’s College Hill reality show (Virginia). One of the house assignments was to work with the BET Wrap It Up (HIV/AIDS awareness campaign and produce radio and television PSAs at their university.  The storyline was hilarious because the castmates totally blew the assignment off and missed their first production appointment. (black apathy = hilarious).  The cast is essentially the target audience for the Wrap-It-Up campaign and this would have been a great opportunity to participate in a peer-constructed media campaign. What changed the course of discussion was a visit from the BET PR director and a person living with HIV/AIDS – the woman shared the story of how she contracted HIV. She was 13 and engaged in sex for the very first time. Yep, one time and she got the virus. When she was done sharing her story, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. They successfully completed the campaign (later), but I also noticed the same HIV prevention messages delivered on that show in 2006 and similar to those that we use today. Besides stressing the need for storytelling, it also reiterated that we need new, relevant strategies to deliver health information – or we will be doing the same things over and over, with minimal impact.  Free Condoms and Lollipops is committed to figuring out what those strategies are. I am thinking of partnering with a hip hop artist and putting my soap box issues to song (smile)…stand by on that one :-)

I enjoyed this event. But, now I am compelled to do something. Did someone say challenge lol?

Resources

Media interviews:

For more information and to find out how you can get involved in this campaign, please visit: www.greaterthan.org.

To find a free HIV testing site near you, please visit: www.hivtest.org

Press Release

Event Flyer

One last comment: I would like to see major artists and entertainers in the AA community using their platform for issues like this.

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