Last week in our series on AIDS.gov microgrant awardees, we profiled four local groups using new media for HIV prevention, testing, and care to reach men who have sex with men (MSM). This week, the focus turns to youth. According to the CDC's factsheet on HIV/AIDS and youth, "young people in the United States are at persistent risk for HIV infection. This risk is especially notable for youth of minority races and ethnicities." The programs featured in this post are working with youth, and using new media to enhance the use of age-appropriate, targeted messages about HIV prevention and education with youth and their peers.
Metro TeenAIDS (MTA) has been managing the RealTalkDC social marketing campaign for several years to reach Washington DC youth. Through its microgrant, MTA added a new RealTalkDC component called Check My Style , in which peer educators and other young people created videos using poetry, song, and dance to share safer sex messages with their peers. MTA posted 23 videos submitted by local youth on social networking sites and voted for the best video on RealTalkDC . During the project, MTA saw an increase in HIV testing and the number of young people seeking information by texting and web inquiries. Check out the videos ! MTA offered several reflections on its experience: that given the right tools and comfort with HIV-related facts, many youth are eager to contribute their voices to keep their peers healthy. And, it is important for staff to help youth to personalize their messages–and encourage them to do so.
Love Heals, the Alison Gertz Foundation for AIDS Education also expanded its reach to youth. Young women of color in East Harlem, Central Brooklyn and the South Bronx who had completed the Foundation's LEAP for Girls Program were re-engaged in the iLove online peer education project. They created and drove traffic to their online videos on HIV prevention on their own Facebook, MySpace and YouTube pages. These young women reached over 2,000 community members through in-person contact and online social networking. iLove staff learned about the importance of actively sustaining youth interest and look forward to expanding this project.
The Lower New York Consortium Youth Social Media project expanded the NYU School of Medicine's efforts to reach urban youth. After looking at social media use among young people, the Consortium developed its social media presence including pages for youth participants in the Healthy Living Program operated by the Consortium. Program staff gained another way to answer questions from youth and to provide accurate prevention messages.
These three programs defined and affirmed the populations each program wanted to reach and identified the social networking spaces that these young people were already using. Starting with local youth, these new media-driven efforts strengthened our collective response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Are at-risk or affected youth an audience you want to reach? What could the effect be on the local HIV epidemic if you explored how new media can help you reach all the audiences you wish to serve and complement your prevention strategies? Let us know your thoughts.