CDC launches new AIDS awareness initiative

WASHINGTON: The US Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched a new prevention initiative yesterday called Act Against AIDS.

WASHINGTON: The US Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched a new prevention initiative yesterday called Act Against AIDS. The five-year communications campaign is designed to bring HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention to top of mind in the US and has a budget of $9 million a year, which includes infrastructure such as a partnership with the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The first phase of Act Against AIDS is built on the message that someone in the US is infected with HIV every nine and a half minutes. It initially includes a Web site called "9 ½ Minutes," a presence on Facebook and Twitter, and text messaging to help participants locate HIV testing centers.

Advertising carrying the 9½-minutes theme will also run on public transit, as well as in print and broadcast media, according to Robyn Castellani, partner at Porter Novelli. She said that it is considering creating PSAs as well.

The agency, which works on HIV/AIDS issues for the CDC, is providing integrated marketing services, including helping develop creative and work with advertising agency Radio Outhouse. While the CDC is handling PR internally for this first phase, PN will work on future phases.

The CDC's focus now is getting the word out about the program, said Melissa Shepherd, acting branch chief for the communications branch in the division of HIV/AIDS. Future phases of the campaign will target at-risk communities like blacks and gay and bisexual men.

The CDC has partnered with groups such as the NAACP and the National Urban League as a way to reach those communities.

"In the end, HIV prevention happens at the grassroots," Shepherd said. "We're really going to be relying on those organizations to get messaging out."

The CDC's media relations strategy was to look nationally and build on relationships with media companies like Clear Channel. Next it "will be forming the Black AIDS Media Partnership… [to] focus on media that are uniquely positioned to reach African-Americans," Shepherd said.

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