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3 Takeaways from our Black Voices Blog Series

black_voices_featureFrom the beginning of the AIDS.gov blog, we found that encouraging conversations is the best way to ensure that we are connecting with our readers. By joining our “voice” with the voices of those we are working to reach and serve, we work together to increase access to HIV/AIDS information.

Our conversations have yielded important insights–for example, our Women & Technology post demonstrated that co-creating makes space for diverse ideas and offers greater opportunities to innovate. Our Read All About It–On Social Media? post taught us that conversations provide insights we need to help us connect our audiences with relevant health information.

Most recently, our Black Voices blog series features a series of conversations with five young leaders from communities across the U.S. These conversations are part of a continuing effort to shed light on important new media and HIV-related topics for the community, by the community. Together, we set out to brainstorm and implement a series that supports our long-term efforts to address HIV among Black men who have sex with men (MSM). Here’s what happened:

Real Stories, Real Responses:

HIV affects people’s lives in many different ways, and the medical aspects are only part of the picture. All of our Black Voices blog posts feature individuals who share intimate, thought-provoking, and relatable stories that provide insights on important topics such as biomedical prevention, stigma, and living with an HIV diagnosis.

Storytelling provides a personal–and compelling–way of approaching the issue of HIV, and spurring people to respond. Our blogger, Ken WIlliams, said it well: “Digital stories are the same stories we’ve been telling for generations, but now they are online….Digital stories can take many forms, but because they are online you can heighten the visibility of social messages and lure your audience into a call of action.”

New Networks:

All of our Black Voices bloggers are doing exciting and interesting work in the fields of HIV awareness and new media. Through that work, each has his own following on blogs, social media, etc.–which means that the messages we are co-creating are expanded to new networks of Black men who are at risk for, or living with, HIV.

YBGLI newsletterFor instance, Anthony Roberts, Jr., is the Vice Chair and Communications Co-Chair for the Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative Exit Disclaimer (YBGLI) board. The blog he wrote on mobilizing youth in response to HIV (Black Voices: Youth are Reigniting the Flame) was featured in the YBGLI Exit Disclaimer newsletter, which reaches young Black men.

Another one of our bloggers, Patrick Ingram, was able to cross-post his piece on addressing stigma on TheBody.com Exit Disclaimer and other HIV/AIDS resource blogs.

We have a name for this practice of sharing stories and information in multiple communications channel: “repurposing” We encourage you repurpose the stories and information you find here–and to ask others to repurpose (or cross-post) your work for their audiences.

Future Collaborations:

The AIDS.gov blog attracts a diverse group of people and organizations. This means that the work our bloggers are doing, and stories they share, can foster new collaborations in the field of HIV/AIDS awareness. And that is exactly what’s happening:

For example, as a result of his post “I Choose to Speak Out”, Ken Williams was approached by Help PSI Exit Disclaimer, a non-profit in New York that focus on care of underserved populations,  to host a biweekly social event for young MSM of color to discuss HIV diagnosis. And another blogger was asked to serve on a digital advisory board.

By sharing their stories with us, these bloggers have collaborated to expand opportunities for conversation in other spaces–including those beyond blogs and social media.

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As always, it is critical to work together to encourage important conversations about HIV prevention, testing and treatment. By collaborating, all of us gain valuable perspective, and we also create opportunities to connect with others we may not have reached by working alone.

How are you collaborating with others in the HIV community? We want to hear your stories!

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