As we continue to observe World AIDS Day, I want to acknowledge the partnership with the Global Business Coalition, which brought HIV.gov into a working relationship with Hairdressers Against AIDS (HAA) and their partner, the L'Oreal Foundation.
Yesterday, in advance of World AIDS Day, HAA sponsored a key event at the United Nations in New York. Over 600 stylists attended the launch of the HAA advocacy program, and it was an honor for me to address this group. Their enthusiasm was exciting!
I thanked them for their innovative use of new media in response to HIV. I also shared information about the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) with them. HAA is an example of community leaders taking action to make the goals of the NHAS real.
In collaboration with the CDC, HAA is giving members knowledge about HIV prevention, testing, and treatment—but, just as important, the program will encourage thousands of conversations about HIV between stylists and their clients. HAA links stylists to new media tools, including the HIV.gov HIV Prevention and Services Locator, so that they can share that information with clients. HAA estimates that they have the potential to reach 100 million Americans with HIV information when they want it, how they want it, and in the format they want it (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
At HIV.gov, we talk about the need to have a conversation about HIV with someone familiar. For many people, their stylist is a trusted partner in their day-to-day lives. Having stylists initiate conversations about HIV/AIDS reinforces a key element of new media—that peer-to-peer communication levels the playing field and, for many, makes it more likely that people can "hear" information about HIV. These conversations also allow stylists to be agents for change in their communities—and partners in implementing the NHAS.
I closed my remarks at the HAA event by reading the NHAS vision statement:
The United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.The audience cheered for that vision. Today, they will be helping to make it a reality. And, as we know, we all have a role in improving our responses to the HIV epidemic!
We look forward to seeing how HAA uses new media to help those they serve. We will share with you some of their "lessons learned" next summer!
Photo Caption (starting at top left, clockwise): Regan Hoffman, Editor In Chief, POZ; Susan Robinson, Associate Director for Communication Science, CDC National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention; Regan Hoffman and Miguel Gomez; Miguel Gomez, Director, HIV.gov.