International AIDS Conference: New Media and the AIDS Community – Some Good News

Last week, we “twitteredExit Disclaimer from the International AIDS Conference (IAC) Exit Disclaimer, and we planned to talk about that this week. We were struck, however, by our conversations on new media with IAC delegates and we decided to write about what we learned at the conference instead. (Stay tuned for more on Twitter soon!)

From the plenary Exit Disclaimer on the future of the global pandemic to’s conversations with a cross-section of the 23,000+ IAC delegates in Mexico City, the topic of new media kept popping up. In that plenary session, Dr. Peter Piot Exit Disclaimer, director of UNAIDS Exit Disclaimer (and one of the leading voices in developing HIV/AIDS policy worldwide), acknowledged the importance of new media in meeting the challenge of HIV/AIDS. Dr. Piot explicitly mentioned Facebook and text messaging as important tools in carrying messages about HIV/AIDS–but he was one of the few who did.

“It is time that prevention programs embrace Facebook, texting, all the communication means, the new information technology that young people are using. It is not by billboards that we are going to introduce social change and personal behavior change on a large scale.” Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director, UNAIDS

At our poster session on, and in informal interviews throughout the weeklong conference, we asked people from all different sectors (government, community-based and faith-based organizations, the private sector, and academia) if, and how, they are using new media in response to HIV/AIDS. Their responses showed a common theme:

Everyone thinks using new media to offer HIV prevention, testing, and treatment messages is a great idea, but very few have made the leap to integrating new media consistently into their daily work or planning.

Photo of Miguel Gomez and Dr. Hazel Dean poster session: Miguel Gomez, Director of, and Dr. Hazel Dean, Deputy Director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.

For those who said they were working on new media initiatives, they recognized that work as a priority. Several organizations, including amfAR Exit Disclaimer and GMHC Exit Disclaimer, were planning rollouts or redesigns of their websites in the near future.

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Exit Disclaimer was the major new media presence at the conference.
KFF provided webcasts Exit Disclaimer for all of the major IAC sessions, as well as interviews with many of the most prominent policymakers and activists in the AIDS community.

There were plenty of bloggers at the conference. Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP) Exit Disclaimer sponsored Exit Disclaimer, an independent community resource for the 2008 IAC, which included blogs Exit Disclaimer from many conference attendees. In addition, a Google blog search Exit Disclaimer yields over 60,000 mentions of the IAC.

Despite these high-profile new media efforts, however, almost everyone we talked to stressed that the use of new media in response to HIV/AIDS is in its infancy. The overwhelming consensus of the delegates was that the AIDS community lags behind in using new media, and that we need to catch up and learn how to use new media tools quickly.

There was a lot of interest in new media from many of those on the front lines. The team attended a fascinating session titled Reaching Millions–Youth, AIDS, and the Digital Age. The panelists were all young AIDS activists who are using the Internet and cell phones to reach and support young people at risk for, or living with, HIV/AIDS in some of the world’s most affected regions.

All of the interest generated by these sessions, and the enthusiastic response to our interviews, led us to believe that there is a need for a conference on AIDS and New Media. Stay tuned as we attempt to make it happen!