Social Marketing Example: Live HIV Neutral

Using Social Media to Educate and Reduce Stigma
parishilton
As this week’s theme was on social marketing, I thought that I would take this opportunity to bring to your attention a really interesting use of social marketing techniques to challenge stigma against those living with HIV and increase testing and awareness among youth. The Stigma Project is a grassroots organization that aims to lower the HIV infection rate and neutralize the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS through education and awareness via social media and advertising.

Believe it or not, Paris Hilton was an individual that really helped the project get off the ground and gain momentum. In the fall of 2012, she made incredibly uninformed and distasteful remarks regarding the transmission of AIDS within the gay community. Scott McPherson and Chris Richey of Los Angeles took note of these comments and decided to use them in the fight against HIV stigma. They made a Paris Hilton meme, which went viral and helped to give their website (www.thestigmaproject.com) plenty of positive attention.

The stigma project markets the idea of living “HIV neutral”, which it describes in its mission statement as a “state of mind, regardless of your status, in which you are informed and aware of the constantly evolving state of HIV/AIDS.… It is putting emphasis on the humanity of all people and not casting judgment because of their status, positive or negative.”

The goals of this project are to lower rates of HIV transmission, and also to improve the quality of life for those living with HIV. According to McPherson, one of the creators of the project, 84% of youth, ages 18 to 34 can be reached through social media. This is also the age group in which there is the highest rate of HIV transmission and therefore social media may be an effective way to target this population. The messages are appealing to youth, as they are witty, make use of pop culture references, and are never preachy. The campaign protests against the use of the words “dirty/clean” to refer to a person’s HIV status. It also uses eye-catching graphics and “social math” to convey information about the numbers of people living with HIV and rates of testing. Finally, it uses education as a weapon against stigma and aims to break misconceptions of how HIV can be transmitted, such as through kissing and hugging.

I could not find any evaluations of this program online, as it is so recent but the facebook page has 5, 500 “likes”, which indicates that many people are interested in the project. It is likely that on top of these people, there are many others who have heard of the project.

Personally, after hearing about this project and checking out their website, I am much more conscious about how I speak about HIV and whether the language I use could be reinforcing stigma. I think that this campaign is doing a wonderful job of using social media to reduce stigma, educate, and empower.

Here is my  evaluation of the 4 Ps of this project.
The product: Getting people to change their language and ideas regarding HIV, HIV transmission, and individuals who are HIV positive
Place: The internet, mostly through social media sites such as facebook and twitter. In addition, there were posters printed and displayed in public places.
Price: Giving up competing pre-established language and knowledge surrounding HIV, potentially causing alienation from peers
Promotion: Catchy internet memes and images, short internet videos, and merchandise
stigma project

Be sure to check out their website: http://www.thestigmaproject.com

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