Ad campaign encourages HIV testing among black men

Published: February 16, 2012

An advertising campaign rolled out this month in the Bay Area provides a new twist on a years-long effort by federal health officials to get more black men who have sex with men to test for HIV.

Under the headline "Testing Makes Us Stronger," the campaign features a diverse range of black gay men, including individuals and couples, in the online, print, and outdoor advertisements. The ads launched in the East Bay on February 6 and have been running on the Bay Area Reporter ‘s website at http://www.ebar.com.

A full-page ad that ran in the B.A.R. ‘s February 2 issue featured two men holding hands who appeared to be in their 20s. Although it is unclear what their HIV status is, the tagline on the ad states, "Our HIV status is powerful information. It helps us take better care of each other."

The advertisements direct people to the campaign website at http://www.hivtest.org/stronger, where they can find locations nearby to get tested confidentially for free.

"Far too many black gay and bisexual men, particularly young black gay and bisexual men, continue to contract HIV each year. Too many more may have HIV and remain unaware that they have the infection ," Kali Lindsey, the National Minority AIDS Council’s director of legislative and public affairs, told reporters during a conference call in late November held to discuss the new campaign.

Lindsey, who learned he was HIV-positive in 2003, was part of a committee of community leaders, physicians, and other experts that helped create the new advertising.

"If we are to reduce HIV transmission and the growing burden of HIV among black gay and bisexual men, it is critical that we enhance our efforts to reach men who may be unaware of their status and encourage them to get tested for HIV," he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is targeting the campaign, which cost $2.4 million, at gay and African-American neighborhoods in six cities where black gay and bisexual men are at greater risk of contracting HIV. In addition to Oakland, the other cities include Atlanta, Baltimore, Houston, New York City, and Washington, D.C.

Based on recent data, federal health officials have found "an alarming" 48 percent increase in new HIV infections among young, black MSM 13 to 29 years old from 2006 to 2009. They also have reported that more new infections occur among young black MSM than white MSM aged 13 to 29 and 30 to 39 combined (6,400).

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