"I Know" Targets US Young Adults on HIV

According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), over 33 million people worldwide are living with HIV. In the United States most aid for preventing and treating the virus tends to go towards those living in the developing world. However, there has been criticism by many American advocates that the U.S. government has neglected to provide the same aid to a group in its own country which has been the most affected by the virus - African Americans. While African Americans represent over 12 percent of the U.S. population, they account for over half of all those being infected yearly and living in the United States with HIV. As the Obama administration starts to put together a national HIV/AIDS strategy - the first one in 20 years, other HIV activists are taking their message directly to the people via digital activism.

The "i know" effort is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Act Against AIDS campaign, which uses multiple social media platforms to reach out to African American youth with facts about HIV/AIDS with the aim to engage them in open conversation.

"By supporting frank conversations through social media, 'i know' creates an opportunity for young people to talk directly with each other about the issues that fuel this still-deadly disease," said Kevin Fenton, director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention. "Their ideas and involvement will be a critical part of the solution."

The campaign uses a mix of both old and new media. Followers have a choice of using Twitter, Facebook and texting to get alerts and status updates on HIV knowledge and attitudes, as well as links to information about HIV testing and prevention. The campaign's website allows users to identify local HIV testing sites and campaign events and video stories of those living with HIV. There are also radio and online video public service announcements that has actor Jamie Foxx calling for a new discussion on HIV.

Since the campaign's launch on March 4, hundreds of users have become followers of the various platforms and it seems that the campaign has initially succeeded in engaging users, as can be seen with the many status re-tweets and discussion. While it is good that social media is being used in this campaign, it should also be highlighted that the campaign's radio use is just as important, as many African-Americans still see the significance of this medium for getting out information within their community. However, it will take a longer amount of time to actually determine if both the online and radio efforts turn into offline actions.

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