The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s national awareness campaign, Testing Makes Us Stronger (TMUS), calls on black gay and bisexual men across the United States to “stay strong and informed” through regular HIV testing. Launching on World AIDS Day, December 1, the campaign was designed with input from black gay and bisexual men to reach black gay and bisexual men. This campaign demonstrates that knowing one’s HIV status is important and empowering information.
CDC convened a panel of black gay and bisexual community leaders, physicians, and other experts to assist in development of the TMUS campaign. Messages were tested and refined based on feedback from more than 400 black gay and bisexual men across the country. This effort resulted in a campaign that includes national print and online advertising; a dedicated website and Facebook page; promotion at black gay pride events; and outdoor, venue-based, and transit advertising in gay and African American neighborhoods in six cities where black gay and bisexual men are heavily affected by HIV: Atlanta, Baltimore, Houston, New York City, Oakland, and Washington, DC. The ads depict bold images and messages and visualize the diversity of this community, including individuals and couples.
Black gay and bisexual men are among those hardest hit by HIV, accounting for 22 percent of all new HIV infections annually; yet they do not engage in riskier behaviors than other gay men. Their elevated risk for HIV is due to a range of social and environmental factors. For example, the high prevalence of HIV that already exists in many black and gay communities increases the likelihood of becoming infected with each sexual encounter. Factors such as homophobia, stigma and economic hardship also contribute to increased HIV risk.
Black gay and bisexual men can help mitigate those factors and ensure their health, well-being, and individual potential are not affected by HIV by making HIV testing a regular part of their lives. Knowing their status allows black gay and bisexual men to take steps to protect their own health and that of their partners. If infected, individuals can have earlier access to medicines that lower the level of the HIV virus in the body, which, in turn, helps a person with HIV be healthier, live longer, and reduce the risk of passing HIV on to others.
More information about Testing Makes Us Stronger, the latest campaign under CDC’s umbrella campaign Act Against AIDS are available at www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom. With these tools, CDC and our partners are committed to ensuring that black gay and bisexual men across the country will have the information and tools needed to enhance awareness, open communication and scale up testing in the fight against HIV nationwide.