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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

'I Talk Because', an 'It Gets Better'-Style Campaign for HIV Awareness

By Elizabeth Lombino -

Here's the setup for an innovative awareness campaign: various celebrities, advocates, allies, and other supporters sharing their thoughts and feelings via YouTube videos. They talk of being different, of stigma, of discrimination. They urge togetherness and hope. All who are involved share the belief that their words may touch another person feeling vulnerable and hopeless. They believe their messages will inspire change, and they are.
This sounds exactly like the It Gets Better campaign, right? Actually it's the format of another influential, yet less known video campaign entitled I Talk Because... which strives to raise awareness around HIV/AIDS.
I Talk Because... was started on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2009 and is spearheaded by New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Several NYC-based HIV/AIDS organizations collaborated with this effort, including AIDS Community Research Initiative of America (ACRIA), Gay Men's Health Crisis, and Harlem United.
The mission of this campaign is simple: to get us all talking about HIV/AIDS.
Participants can submit their homemade videos to the YouTube site. Just talk about HIV, what it means to you, and why it's important for all of us to be talking. That's it. It's free, it's simple, and it's powerful.
Some of the celebrities and public figures who have created videos include Rosie Perez, David Mixner, Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos, Wendy Williams, Alan Cumming, and Tony Kushner. In October 2010, I Talk Because... was named one of the "Top 5 YouTube Projects That Are Making a Difference" by Mashable. Also in the top 5 was the It Gets Better campaign.
Speaker Quinn wrote about the project on the day of its launch:
" ... I want to talk about HIV/AIDS more and I want other people  to talk about HIV/AIDS more because there was a time in this city when people literally stopped everything else they were doing, put their jobs on hold, put their personal lives on hold, put their families on hold to go out and change the government perspective on HIV/AIDS, to change the scientific community’s  perspective, the pharmaceutical community’s  perspective and we have an obligation to honor all of that work and sacrifice and all of those people who have died by not getting complacent. One day we will wake up and things will be as bad as they ever were if we end up being complacent so I urge all of you to talk more ... "
ACRIA's executive director Daniel Tietz told "The campaign debunks HIV myths and gives the facts, not just amongst peers, but across generations. It encourages conversations within families. And ultimately a willingness to talk is worthwhile because it breaks down boundaries and stigma."
These words are so true. For a variety of reasons, conversations surrounding HIV and AIDS are not as abundant as they once were. Truth be told, HIV and AIDS has never really been a top conversation topic among people outside of the HIV community. Personally I can attest to this. My social circle knows what I do and who I work with, and let's just say the topic of HIV is more of a conversation stopper rather than starter. We all have a lot of work to do.
Get involved! Watch some of the videos, make your own video, or just talk about HIV/AIDS with someone, anyone. Support this amazing campaign and hopefully it will gain some of the same momentum as It Gets Better. Maybe then we can all walk into a nice cocktail party, declare that we do indeed talk about HIV, and rather than be given strange stares, be swarmed in conversation.


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