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

Last week, we "twittered" Exit 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 AIDS.gov’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 AIDS.gov, 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

AIDS.gov poster session: Miguel Gomez, Director of AIDS.gov, 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 AIDS2008.com 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 AIDS.gov 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!

About AIDS.gov

Comments

  1. Looks like you guys had a great time and well-deserved as well! Who was the moderator or leader of this session: Reaching Millions–Youth, AIDS, and the Digital Age?
    It’s be neat to be able to talk to them or if they have a blog, follow them too. Thanks for the post!

  2. Alex (aka SocialButterfly),
    Thanks for your comment. The moderator of the session “Reaching Millions–Youth, AIDS, and the Digital Age” was Paul Meyer. Here’s a link to his work bio: http://www.voxiva.com/management.asp. Also, here’s a link to a 2005 USA Today story on him: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2004-03-08-high-low-solution_x.htm

  3. Eric Buhi says:

    I am glad to know that new media is being mentioned at such high levels. However, I’m ready for funding agencies, both governmental and non, to start putting their money where their mouths are. We desperately need funding to plan, develop, implement, and evaluate such public health media efforts, regarding HIV prevention. I would really hate to see projects being designed hastily and without consideration for proper measurement of outcomes.
    On another note, there was a meeting I attended in San Francisco, CA in January called Sex::Tech (see http://www.sxtechconference.org/index.html), which focused on youth, technology, and STI/HIV prevention. Rather than creating yet another conference, we should combine our resources to sponsor a joint meeting. I believe they already planning Sex::Tech for 2009.

  4. Seems like it was a good session, and I find that it is very good that media start to get involved in this levels.
    As Eric said, I think that joining everyone’s effort and doing only one focused event would be a much better solution…

  5. There is so much power in the new media and social networking – and truly there is a world of people out there who want to care, if we can get the word out. It so critical for our future! Thank you for all that you do.

  6. I agree that billboards are one thing and Facebook is another, but I think it’s important to realize both are important mediums to use in communication. You will reach two different audiences when we utilize these different ways to put information out there either in cyberspace or the physical universe. Some will surf the web and interact and see the issues, while others will be driving along our streets and a billboard will send a message which can bring about interaction in conversation in the car or later on during dinner.
    Expression in both mediums is smart and there are so many avenues to utilize, so to speak when expressing ourselves in the physical universe as well as on the internet. Lets get the word out in both worlds.
    Liz

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