AIDS Media @ 30

Authored by Sarah Hamilton

As a new parent, I’ve been watching a lot of television. A lot. But something the other day gave me pause: a commercial featuring an African-American woman talking about her experience as an HIV-positive single mother in America today.  This spot was part of We are Greater than AIDS, the national media movement launched by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Black AIDS Institute in 2009 to respond to the AIDS crisis in the U.S., with particular emphasis on the severe and disproportionate epidemic among Black Americans. Importantly, it ran during So You Think You Can Dance (yes, I admit it)…not only are we talking about prime time placement, but an audience one can assume is made up of young adults and teens, an age group that continues to be at risk with latest statistics showing that those between 13 and 29 accounted for 34% of new infections in 2006 (Kaiser, June 2011). A few years back I remember having the same feeling after seeing a PSA-type trailer before a movie that featured Magic Johnson (check out the work of the FCAA member organization Magic Johnson Foundation here); I tried to remember the last time I had seen something like this (hint: it was close to a decade).

30 years after the first reported case of AIDS, I find it sad that it’s still rare to see something like this on a national platform.  Not surprisingly, the recent Kaiser Family Foundation national survey of Americans on HIV/AIDS found a declining sense of national urgency, noting that “in 1987, two-thirds of Americans named HIV/AIDS as the most urgent health problem facing the country…a number that has to declined to just 7% today.” According to the survey, six in 10 Americans said most of what they know comes from the media, despite “a drop of more than 70% in HIV/AIDS news in developed countries in the past two decades,” (Science Speaks: HIV & TB News 1/4).

The 30th anniversary of AIDS, however, provided an opportunity for AIDS to once again go “mainstream,” with coverage appearing in major outlets across the country. In the New York Times, Lawrence Altman – the first journalist to cover AIDS for the Times in 1981 – shared his perspective on the past 30 years, and how the AIDS virus has revolutionized all aspects of society and public health. The impact of funding  - or lack thereof – for the global response dominated coverage in other outlets, including the Washington Post and Economist, while others focused on advances, or remaining challenges, in treatment and research (L.A. Times, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian).  Not surprisingly, in the lead-up to June 5th, the New York Magazine article, “The Man Who Had HIV and Now Does Not,” about Timothy Brown, the man who battled HIV and leukemia and is now seemingly cured of both, received a significant amount of attention. Finally, a number of key stakeholders chronicled their histories in in-depth interviews, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci and Ambassador Eric Goosby. Many FCAA member organizations also shared their reflections on the 30th anniversary. Read the AIDS United blog series on 30 years of HIV/AIDS – including guest entries from Gay Mens Health Crisis and AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC); a blog commentary from the American Jewish World Service; a commemorative statement from amfAR; and the Huffington Post editorials “AIDS at 30: A Woman’s Story” by M.A.C AIDS Fund Executive Director Nancy Mahon, and “30 Years of HIV/AIDS, How Many More?” by Mark Ishaug, President & CEO of AIDS United.

I entered the public health field through the pages of POZ magazine. Shortly after graduating, I moved to NYC from Iowa. Armed with an English/Journalism degree – and thus no job prospects - I spent many hours at a temp job reading back issues of POZ and discovering the voice and passion of treatment media. I was hooked. While I have worked in HIV/AIDS since, I still get excited to attend meetings at the Kaiser Family Foundation, to befriend amazing bloggers and advocates via Twitter, and I still do things like chatter awkwardly when meeting my version of “rock stars” (like POZ founder Sean Strub). Thankfully, we now live in a social media world, and I am thrilled that people have access to all of these resources and stories from wherever they work and live. Just this week passed 100,000 followers on Twitter (follow them In three years they’ve sent out more than 2,000 tweets about HIV/AIDS, the federal government and the power of social media. And why is this all the more important? According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, “African Americans and Latinos continue to have higher rates of Twitter use than whites. And Twitter usage among internet users ages 25-34 has doubled since late 2010 (from 9% to 19%). This corresponds with communities most impacted by HIV, and the communities that the National HIV/AIDS Strategy tells us are disproportionately represented in the HIV epidemic” (  So start sharing HIV/AIDS coverage and resources – link to them, like them, tweet them, tag them, what ever your method – and, in doing so, reach impacted communities and help raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S. and abroad. Maybe the more we share, the more someone will write?

Below are some of my favorite blogs and resources focused on the 30th Anniversary. Enjoy, and don’t forget to share them, and, of course, to follow FCAA on Twitter and Facebook.    


  12/28/2011 10:21:27 AM

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You're on top of the game. Thanks for sharnig.
  8/27/2011 8:02:31 PM

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Holy coicnse data batman. Lol!

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