Creating a social marketing campaign targeting African American men who have sex with men (MSM) in Newark, New Jersey, in an effort to increase HIV rapid testing within a high-risk population

Published: July 18, 2010

Creating a social marketing campaign targeting African American men who have sex with men (MSM) in Newark, New Jersey, in an effort to increase HIV rapid testing within a high-risk population

G.P. Wright

African American Office of Gay Concerns, Newark, United States

Issues: Newark continues to be the epicenter of HIV/AIDS cases reported in New Jersey. Black Gay Men have lead the number of new infections for the past three years. Statistics indicate that a high percentage of MSM are unaware of their HIV infection.

Description: The African African Office of Gay Concerns (AAOGC), a community-based organization, created the "Status Is Everything" social marketing campaign, an effort to increase the number of MSM taking the HIV Rapid Test in order to learn their serostatus. Focus groups were held involving the target population, resulting in a campaign utilizing traditional advertising and modern technology, such as the Internet and mobile texting to reach a younger, at-risk population. Social network sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and various blogging sites were integrated along with an increased outreach strategy involving staff and volunteers, to bring about a unique HIV awareness campaign in the city. Videos were shot using key community informants from the target population of Black Gay Men and Transgenders. Ads appeared on city buses and local television.

Lessons learned: Community input was vital to this process. Incentives, including "gift cards" and transportation vouchers, often proved necessary to ensure successful referrals to testing sites. Posting and monitoring public service announcements on the Internet proved to be extremely resourceful. Initial word of mouth created a lot of "buzz" including coverage in local media. The project also attracted fraudulent participants, attempting to capitalize on the incentives. The three participating health care centers/testing sites have already reported a positive increase in the number of MSM of color being tested for HIV and other STIs as a result of the campaign.

Next steps: The AAOGC has already been approached by other local and statewide HIV prevention programs with the intent of replicating or collaborating and expanding the campaign.

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