Images are an important part of storytelling. For the HIV community, images have long provided a way to tell stories, share experiences, inspire people to get tested, etc. Images like those of ACT UP protests, or the AIDS Memorial Quilt covering the National Mall in Washington, D.C., created a sense of urgency and/or empathy for many who viewed them.
It was in that context that AIDS.gov launched FacingAIDS in 2008. We saw the initiative as an innovative way to share information about the benefits of image-sharing and to tackle HIV-related stigma–as well as to increase the number of tools available to respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. FacingAIDS was groundbreaking at a time when Facebook was new, Twitter did not allow images, and Instagram and Snapchat didn’t exist. Community engagement in the campaign was high during HIV Awareness Days, which reinforces how communities across the country are affected by the disease.
Thousands of people all over the nation, including people living with HIV, service providers, advocates, and political and community leaders sent us photos of themselves declaring their reasons for facing AIDS. Even the AIDS.gov team joined in, as seen in this photo from 2010.
But like everything else in the digital landscape, image-sharing evolves–and so do we! Our continuous monitoring of digital trends tells us that FacingAIDS has served its purpose, and that we will engage our visitors better by redirecting efforts to our new digital platforms. As a result, we have decided to retire the initiative and we will be sunsetting the FacingAIDS photo gallery. Even though you will no longer be able to submit photos to the gallery, you can still share your images and your story on social media using #facingaids .
In the next few months we will be sharing trends, best practices and tips about image-sharing. In the meantime, here is what HIV Positive Social Media Consultant, Josh Robbins , had to say: “”Using images across all social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, is one of the most effective engagement tactics that I use personally in my HIV outreach . One of the best usages of photo sharing among some of my peers telling meaningful stories of those living with HIV to decrease stigma and raise awareness, is Kevin Maloney of Rise Up to HIV, through his “No Shame About Being HIV+” campaign—sharing over 650 individual stories using a coordinated image layout and branding paired with the subject’s written experiences.”
As always, we will be meeting our audiences where they are – on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And soon you will be able to find us on Snapchat! (More on that later.) We will also continue to share our digital storytelling initiative, Positive Spin, as another great way of using visuals and we encourage people to use #mypositivespin to share share experiences around HIV testing, treatment, care and viral suppression.
We appreciate all those individuals and groups who sent us photos over the years–and we look forward to continuing our engagement with you in the future!