We’re 6 Months Old: Part 1 on Blogging

Cake with number six on it

Photo by Sharyn Morrow Exit Disclaimer

Alan Gambrell

Alan Gambrell, Planning Committee member and consultant with HRSA

We started this blog six months ago.

Three months ago we reflected on whether the blog was working and we decided to continue. We declared that we’d continue blogging only as long as we could clearly define how best to measure our success.

Recently one of our colleagues, Alan Gambrell, asked us if we thought the blog was a success. Alan, a consultant with the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), is an Planning Committee member and is helping the HRSA staff plan the upcoming Ryan White Program Grantee Meeting Exit Disclaimer. HRSA has invited Miguel Gomez, director of, to speak on the role of new media at the conference. Alan’s questions were very similar to the ones we’ve been asking ourselves, so we’d like to use this week’s blog post to share our responses with you.

Do you consider the blog a success?

We had to take a step back and ask ourselves, “Are we helping our target community?” We are funded by the Minority AIDS Initiative (MAI) to augment the capacity of minority communities in their response to HIV/AIDS. Specifically, we are charged with increasing HIV testing and linkages to treatment and care services for those at greatest risk for HIV.

Photo of Miguel Gomez

Miguel Gomez, Director of

“We declared that we’d continue blogging only as long as we could clearly define how best to measure our success.”

We needed to recognize that this target audience is already using and depending on new media tools 24/7. They are already using the Web, social networks, podcasts, and blogs to get HIV-related health information, and they are making health decisions based on what they learn. Their families, friends, and caregivers are doing the same thing. So we have to meet them where they are.

So when we ask ourselves “Are we successful? Are we reaching our target community and the goals of the MAI?”, we believe the answer is “Yes.” It is enough? No–but we are proud that through the blog: 1) we’re helping our MAI colleagues and others better understand how to use new media tools to reach their clients in the ways they want to be reached; 2) we are one of very few voices about new media in the fight against HIV/AIDS that also highlights minority new media leaders and; 3) we currently have more requests than we can manage to provide basic new media training to our Federal and non-Federal partners.

These are bold statements!

They are bold, but I have three reasons to feel so strongly that we are meeting the need.

First, thanks to the privilege of managing, I communicate regularly with the lead Federal program managers and their staff who handle more than $18 billion spent on HIV domestically, as well as with state and local health officials managing HIV programs, people living with HIV/AIDS, and those providing HIV services. They all tell me that we need to dramatically increase our understanding of these new media tools and implement them where appropriate.

Second, on all levels, there are limited concrete plans to do this.

And third, on a positive note, this blog has helped me see the emerging potential of new media and its public health applications. I’ve heard wonderful stories about successful use of these tools from a diversity of sources, including our colleagues at the New Mexico AIDS Services (MySpace page Exit Disclaimer), the San Francisco Department of Public Health (text messaging services Exit Disclaimer), the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (podcasts Exit Disclaimer), and the CDC (National HIV Testing Day Personal PSA project), just to name a few!

How do you ensure that the information on this blog is accurate?

Each week we speak to new media experts to ensure that our messages are accurate. We check in with AIDS service providers to ground assertions by the team and the experts we talk to. We continue to evaluate what we’re doing and that this blog is meeting an unmet need.

What’s next?

We will continue to blog about new media. We will continue to reach out to AIDS service providers and new media experts so that we can grow and learn along with our readers. And we will continue to respond to comments and to contribute to the conversation on using new media to fight HIV/AIDS.

We’re inspired by Secretary Mike Leavitt’s blog, which is also intended to foster public discussion. He says, “The blog is intended to be a dynamic online conversation [about health and the related challenges that face the nation].” We hope to do the same for new media and HIV/AIDS.

And we are inspired by our readers and contributors. Our goal is to better define our progress by answering the question we always ask ourselves: “How has this blog motivated others to engage in a dialogue on new media and HIV/AIDS?”

So, if you’re a reader/blogger/AIDS service provider — please let us know how we’re doing. How can we do more? What advice can you give us?