L.A. County Launches Its Most Comprehensive Campaign Ever to Encourage HIV Testing
Up to 70 percent of new HIV infections are spread by those who do not know they have HIV
This week the Los Angeles County, Department of Public Health’s Office of AIDS Programs and Policy is launching its most comprehensive community outreach campaign ever to encourage HIV testing. In Los Angeles County, one in four of those who have HIV does not know it.
Entitled “Virus,” the multi-faceted campaign is designed to raise doubt and make Angelenos ask the question: “Could I have HIV?” Throughout the execution of the campaign a striking green image of the actual HIV virus appears with the headlines: “Is it in you?” and “Get Tested. The virus could be in you.” (find artwork of the campaign attached.)
The campaign’s call-to-action to “Erase Doubt” and get tested for HIV is captured in a unifying symbol or logo that will consistently appear throughout future executions of the campaign. The campaign cleverly twists the familiar red AIDS ribbon into a question mark with an arrow pointing to a dedicated URL www.EraseDoubt.org. The combination of the AIDS ribbon and the question mark imply doubt about one’s HIV status while the arrow directs one to erase any doubt by going to campaign’s Web site to locate a testing site and get more information about HIV/AIDS.
“We developed a campaign around the idea that people go through several stages when considering HIV and how the disease affects them,” said Mario J. PÅ½rez, Director, Office of AIDS Programs and Policy. “Our goal is to move people from assessing their risk, to questioning whether or not they have HIV and finally getting tested and, if necessary, seeking treatment. We hope this campaign will educate residents about their risk and make sure they are aware that free HIV testing and treatment are available. This is especially important today when so many are faced with economic hardship.”
The “Virus” campaign will officially begin rolling out this week and will be executed in three phases through 2010. The campaign will be in English and Spanish and will strategically target those who are most at risk for HIV in Los Angeles County. These groups include gay and bisexual men–with an emphasis on Latinos and African-Americans–and women of color. A majority of HIV infections in Los Angeles County are among men who have sex with men while HIV infection rates are growing fastest among Latinas and African-American women.
To effectively reach these audiences, the campaign will utilize a variety of traditional advertising mediums including billboards, buses, bus shelters and radio. And, for the first time ever, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health will tap into the growing popularity of guerilla marketing and social media sites with an ongoing presence on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Many of the campaign’s advertisements along with other campaign elements, such as viral videos can be seen at Facebook.com/EraseDoubt, Twitter.com/EraseDoubt, and YouTube.com/EraseDoubt.
The first phase of the advertising effort showing the striking image of the HIV virus will address the growing complacency around HIV/AIDS reminding Angelenos the disease is still a serious health threat while also raising doubt about one’s own HIV status.
In December 2009, the second phase of the campaign will personalize HIV forcing one to face head-on the possibility they could be infected with the virus. One of the advertisements features a young African-American man who appears to be healthy. However, the same striking green HIV virus appears in one of his eyes, and the headline reads: “Get tested. The virus could be in you.”
The third phase, starting in 2010, will address the fact that many in relationships–gay or straight–falsely believe they are not at risk for HIV. Focus groups conducted when developing the campaign showed that gay men and women in relationships thought they were not necessarily at risk for HIV. The campaign features gay and straight couples where the same green HIV virus appears in the eye of one of the partners. Again, the headline reads: “Get tested. The virus could be in you.” The campaign will seek to raise doubt about one’s HIV status even though they are in a relationship.
In an effort to normalize HIV testing and make it as convenient as possible, the campaign will also host a series of community events entitled “Test-Fest” that take HIV testing mobile units into the community. The first “Test-Fest” will take place on Saturday, July 25 from 11 am to 5 pm at Ted Watkins County Park in South Los Angeles.
The event includes live entertainment, celebrity appearances and is expected to be the largest HIV testing event ever in Southern California with more than 10 mobile HIV testing units at the event. Anyone attending the event can get a free, easy, painless and anonymous rapid HIV test with results in about 30 minutes. Between 300 and 400 people are expected to get tested.
The mission of the Department of Public Health’s Office of AIDS Programs and Policy is to respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Los Angeles County by preventing its spread, maximizing health and social outcomes, and coordinating effective and efficient targeted services for those at risk for, living with, or affected by HIV.