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One Meme at a Time!

Aniz logoEditor’s Note: Today we share the fifth story from the new media planning projects supported by AIDS.gov in summer 2013. To read earlier posts in this series, click here

Young people aged 13–29 accounted for 39% of all new HIV infections in 2009. This alarming statistic paints an image of the epidemic on our nation’s youth. For 17 years, Aniz, Inc. Exit Disclaimer of Atlanta has worked to connect individuals with information to prevent the infection and transmission of HIV/AIDS and other STDs. Often when faced with the realities of the epidemic on young people, Aniz’s staff considers the questions: “How do we reach youth with this message?” and “What method of communication will effectively relay the message of sexual health to this generation?”.

In our new media project, Aniz used social media memes with a text messaging campaign to increase HIV awareness, and promote HIV testing and risk reduction among urban college students in metro Atlanta. Working with students from Clark-Atlanta University, Georgia State University, and Spelman College, Aniz created social media meme-themed palm cards with eye-catching images and up-to-date sexual health messages. Our interns then distributed the palm cards at several college campus events, particularly during community service days.

Following on this effort, Aniz witnessed a 20% increase in the number of “likes” on our Facebook page Exit Disclaimer and page views among those 18-24, as well as, increases in our Instagram Exit Disclaimer and Twitter Exit Disclaimer followers. More than 130 college students signed up to receive agency information and updates via our pre-existing text messaging service (Text ANIZINC to 41411). Also, as a result of the campaign, we have seen an increase of 30% in the number of college students that have come to Aniz’s office for HIV testing.

Aniz Awardee interns (1)

Aniz interns at a college campus event distributing social media meme cards & recruiting students for the text-messaging service.

As with all new initiatives, there were challenges in implementation. These included sticking to deadlines, printing palm cards at a feasible cost, staying within the overall budget, and ensuring that all staff was educated on the use of social media.

We are inspired by the results of our efforts so far and plan to continue educating youth through this social media platform. Aniz will continue to improve its outreach by pairing the most eye-catching, comical images with salient facts and statistics on sexual health. As these images are distributed throughout social media outlets, Aniz hopes to encourage college students to make better decisions in regards to their health, ultimately leading to lower infection rates among the youth population. This is HIV prevention one meme at a time…

Are you using social media to reach college students about HIV? Please comment below on your successes and challenges.

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