CDC’s Start Talking. Stop HIV. (STSH) is a national HIV-prevention campaign created by and for gay and bisexual men of all races. It seeks to reduce new cases of HIV by promoting open communication about a range of HIV-prevention strategies for sexual partners. Launched in 2014, STSH engages gay and bisexual men through strategic partnerships, community engagement and Pride events, media placements, and social and digital media.
STSH emphasizes social media as a communication tool that can increase the reach of key messages and provide a forum for conversations about HIV. The campaign uses novel formats that are trending on social media, such as infographics, GIFs, and memes to connect with its target audience.
STSH aims to help gay and bisexual men communicate more effectively, including about potentially challenging subjects like: getting tested for HIV (individually or together); knowing, verifying, and talking about one’s HIV status; condom use; PrEP; HIV treatment and having an undetectable viral load; and building and maintaining healthy relationships, regardless of HIV status. The success of this content has contributed to the growth of the campaign’s Facebook audience and post reach. For example, the STSH Facebook account, which launched in 2014, had garnered 156,187 followers as of July 1, 2019. Innovative content such as the campaign’s “Conversation Starters” meme series encourages gay and bisexual men to initiate conversations about prevention methods by providing tips on how to begin a potentially sensitive conversation.
The STSH campaign is now expanding its social media strategy to broaden its reach to key populations. In 2018, STSH launched an Instagram account in a continued effort to reach young gay and bisexual men with HIV-prevention messages. Instagram has the highest engagement rates among the top social media platforms, and has been shown to be more effective at engagement than Facebook or Twitter. A 2014 Forrester Research study showed that Instagram posts had 58 times the engagement per follower than Facebook, and 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter. Instagram also caters to a younger audience, with 64 percent of its users falling between the ages of 18 and 34.
As part of efforts to increase engagement across platforms, STSH works with influencers within the gay and bisexual community to expand the reach of HIV messaging. In January 2019, STSH released a video series on Facebook and Instagram featuring Karamo Brown, culture expert on the Netflix series Queer Eye. In the videos, Brown highlights prevention options and addresses stigma about HIV prevention. The newly launched Instagram page has garnered over 1,350 followers within the first 8 months of the launch, and from December 2018 to April 2019 the page has seen a 20% increase in follower growth rate.
Follow @starttalkinghiv on Instagram and Facebook to learn more and be part of this growing community. You can also follow HIV.gov on Instagram at @hivgov. Do you need tips for using Instagram? Check out our blog post featuring five things to know about Instagram.