White House, CDC Launch National AIDS Awareness Campaign

National AIDS Awareness

Back when he was a presidential candidate, Barack Obama promised to develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy in the first year of his presidency. According to his campaign Web site, this initiative would, among other things, develop programs to reduce HIV infection, promote AIDS prevention, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. Specifically, Obama pledged to fight HIV/AIDS disparities in minority communities by “promoting innovative HIV/AIDS testing initiatives in minority communities and partnering with community leaders.”

Now, only a little more than three months into his presidency, the Obama White House has taken an important first step in that direction by launching a major national AIDS awareness initiative, Act Against AIDS. Administered by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this five-year, multifaceted communication campaign features messages and outreach targeted specifically to the minority communities most severely affected by AIDS. Initially, the campaign will focus on African Americans, who represent roughly half of all new HIV infections and AIDS deaths in the U.S. each year. Subsequent phases will focus on other high-risk minority populations, including Hispanics and men who have sex with men (MSMs).

To capture the public’s attention and raise awareness of the fact that the AIDS epidemic is still a serious health threat in America despite recent advances in treatment, the first phase of the Act Against AIDS campaign emphasizes the message that “every nine and a half minutes, another person in the U.S. is infected with HIV.” The CDC has created “9½ minutes” campaign materials in a variety of media, including video, audio, print and online.

The campaign’s Web site, www.cdc.gov/nineandahalfminutes/, provides a wealth of information on HIV prevention, testing (including how to locate the nearest HIV test site), living with HIV and delaying the onset of AIDS. Perhaps most important, the site (which includes a Spanish-language version) offers uncensored, straight talk about condoms, safe sex and other HIV-prevention issues—a welcome change from the watered-down information that was all too prevalent during the Bush years.

As for partnering with community leaders, the CDC has created the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, a collaborative effort between 14 of the nation’s most influential African American organizations, to integrate HIV prevention into each organization’s outreach programs. Groups participating in this initiative include the NAACP, the National Urban League, 100 Black Men of America and the National Council of Negro Women.

Nurses can find more information about the Act Against AIDS awareness campaign, along with free downloadable videos, podcasts, fact sheets and other campaign materials, at www.cdc.gov/nineandahalfminutes/.