Snap, Filter, & Share: Using Instagram in Response to HIV

Content From: Jennie Anderson, Communications AdvisorPublished: May 14, 20133 min read


Instagram IconOver the past few years, more and more people have shifted from using a standalone camera to their mobile phones to take photos. Smartphones make it convenient and easy for people to take photos whenever they want, and to share them instantly with whomever they want. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project (Pew), nearly half (46%) of American adults are smartphone usersExit Disclaimer, and nearly half (46%) of adult internet users post original photos or videos onlineExit Disclaimer .

From sharing personal messages about the HIV epidemic to photos from HIV events, at we have seen the power of photosharing to address HIV-related issues such as stigma. Instagram is primarily a mobile-based application that allows you to “snap a picture, choose a filter to transform its look and feel,” then share, like other photos, tag friends and organizations, and upload your photo to Facebook (Instagram’s parent company), Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Foursquare, and/or email.

How does it work?

Similar to other photo sharing apps and programs, once you download the Instagram app to your smartphone (iPhone or Android compatible), you set up a simple user profile. Instagram gives you the option of have a public (default) or private account. Just like Twitter, you can “follow” other peoples’ photo streams. If you have a public account, anyone on using Instagram, including those on the Instagram website, can see your photos and subscribe to follow you. If you choose a private account, you must approve anyone who wants to follow you.

Instagram 2 Capture or select a photo from your image library.Instagram Step 3 Select a filter and make edits to the photo.Instagram 4 Write a description and share your photo.There are a few simple steps to create, edit and share a photo. You can upload a photo already on your phone or take one live, apply a filter, then finally add a description, people, and location. Many users use hashtags, similar to Twitter, to make their photos more searchable and link to the larger Instagram community. The finished Instagram photo is automatically shared with your followers, where they can choose to like it or comment on it. If the photo is public, it can be found through a search. For more information you can view the recent CDC NPIN webinar on Facebook and image sharing that includes a discussion of Instagram.

Who is using Instagram?

According to DigidayExit Disclaimer, “Instagram has 100 million monthly active users; 40 million photos are posted per day; 8,500 likes per second on Instagram; 1,000 comments are made per second.” Pew data Exit Disclaimer shows that 27% of internet users between ages 18-29 use Instagram, and 12% of all adult internet use it. At we have been hearing about more and more people across the country using Instragram in their HIV work.

How are people using Instagram in the HIV community?

A search (May 2) for “HIV” on the Instagram websiteExit Disclaimer yields over 25,400 photos ranging from images of people standing up for HIV, HIV-related event information, HIV test results, and much more. In addition, there is an HIV photostream from the recently launched Youth AIDS Day (April 10)Exit Disclaimer. Their photos include people holding signs with personal messages about committing to an AIDS-free generation. AIDS Foundation ChicagoExit Disclaimer is also using Instagram to share photos from HIV-related events.

How do you use (or plan to use) Instagram or another photo sharing tool in response to HIV? Share with us some of your favorite ways you’ve seen Instagram used in the response to HIV.