By Howard K. Koh, M.D., M.P.H., Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Optimism. Passion. Poignancy. Excitement. Last week’s World AIDS Day observances generated these emotions worldwide.
Thirty years ago, when the first federal first reports of AIDS emerged, none of the new media tools we use today were available. Since then, so much has changed to inform people about HIV and AIDS.
Within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH), the Office of HIV/AIDS Policy (OHAP) uses new media to expand our collective response to the epidemic throughout the year. This year, on December 1, our team supported and promoted World AIDS Day through several new media tools. A few examples:
Videosharing: At the ONE Campaign and (RED) event , President Obama announced accelerated efforts to increase the availability of treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. New funding will support AIDS Drug Assistance Programs in states and increase access to HIV/AIDS care services. He challenged the global community to deliver funds to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria , and called on Congress to keep its past commitments intact. He called on all Americans to keep fighting.
The live broadcast created dialog in workplaces, schools and homes about the possibility of an AIDS free generation. Video sharing meant we all could hear the news, the optimism, and identify steps to make this change a reality.
Twitter: As it approached, World AIDS Day was a trending topic in some cities. The conversation with the hashtag #WAD11 was heartfelt. CDC’s Twitter Town Hall shared new scientific information from the Vital Signs: New Hope for Stopping HIV report. The Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice tweeted its commitment and resources in combating HIV related discrimination. Countless tweets from individuals and groups like @GreaterThanAIDS and @NMACCommunity supported knowing one’s HIV status and the importance of HIV testing.
Facebook: The White House moderated a Facebook chat with Ambassador Eric Goosby who is the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. The questions reflected the excitement of where we are worldwide and the challenges that remain. Facebook was a platform for local groups to advertise HIV testing sessions, educational forums, vigils, and more. Many individuals shared poignant reflections on their walls.
Blogging: As in past years, bloggers wrote about stigma, the status of the epidemic, the importance of HIV testing, the role of prevention education and more. We were thrilled to see so many Federal leaders blogging on and around World AIDS Day – from HHS to the other Departments involved in Federal coordination of implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
Photosharing: This year, we saw the power of photography applied to enhancing HIV awareness. More than 1,300 of you have already joined the Facing AIDS for World AIDS Day photo sharing initiative. It’s not too late to upload your photo to the gallery. The excitement of joining something bigger than oneself and sharing personal messages about HIV was palpable at local events.
With passage of this World AIDS Day, we are even more firmly convinced that reaching the goal of an AIDS-free generation will require us to take full advantage of new media to inform people and galvanize their support to educate others on HIV/AIDS.
Please let us know how you will use social media to move us toward an AIDS free generation.