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think: Sexual Health Campaign

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Launched in 1997 by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and MTV, think: Sexual Health is a public education campaign designed to inform young people in the United States about HIV/AIDS and related issues. The initiative includes public service advertisements (PSAs), long-form documentary and entertainment programming, news segments, and free resources, including an informational guide, an interactive website, "vlogging" contests, and a telephone hotline.
Communication Strategies: 

The think: Sexual Health campaign uses a variety of appeals and communication styles - from upbeat and life-affirming to more edgy and hard-hitting - in an effort to raise awareness about the risk of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and to reduce their spread by encouraging more informed decision making, communication, protection, and testing among sexually active youth. With the credo "Reflect. Decide. Do.", the campaign includes the following communication-centred components:

  • PSAs which are tagged with the campaign's toll-free hotline (1-888-BE-SAFE-1) and website (see below) for viewers seeking additional information. Joel Schumacher, the acclaimed movie director, has developed several PSAs for the campaign, including a series on HIV testing. Click here to watch the many PSAs produced over the years, online.
  • Full-length televised specials such as "The Social History of HIV", which chronicles more than two decades of the epidemic in the U.S.; "Sex Quiz", which tests viewers' knowledge about sexual health issues; special episodes of the network's "True Life" documentary series on access to care and living with HIV; and dozens of MTV news segments.
  • An interactive website where visitors can learn more about the campaign and HIV/AIDS, access HIV/AIDS and STI resources such as local testing facilities and tips for talking to one's partner, and learn how to take action to join the fight against AIDS. They may also read and download the It's Your (Sex) Life: Your Guide to Safe and Responsible Sex [PDF], which provides detailed, concrete information about decision making, communication, prevention of unintended pregnancy, HIV testing, and related issues.


In June 2006, the website underwent an expansion to transform it into a multi-media, interactive online community (with support from the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), iFilm, and WebMD). Designed to provide a platform to foster dialogue and active engagement on the topic of HIV/AIDS and its impact on young people, the site draws on "the latest media technologies" and user-generated content to give voice to young people through the following components:

  • An interactive community launched following the premiere of the "THINK HIV" documentary (see below) on August 18 2006. The site is designed to be an engaging and interactive, safe space for young people to share their personal stories through videos, photos, blogs, and text about HIV/AIDS. The site also provides access to various types of information and resources about HIV/AIDS. Visitors may upload their videos to the site via software from iFilm.
  • Alive at 25 - National HIV Vlogging Competition - From June 5-30 2006, young people ages 13-25 from around the country were encouraged to submit essays online of 250 words or less explaining why they should be selected as the exclusive think HIV vlogger (video blogger) for their state. One winner will be selected from each state by Kaiser, MTV, and NASTAD, and will be given a video camera to vlog about what HIV/AIDS means from their unique perspective. Winners will be featured on the site with official state information about HIV/AIDS, links to local services, and key resources for young people (developed in partnership with NASTAD members).
  • THINK HIV - a documentary in which young people themselves tell the story of how their generation has been impacted by the virus. "Part memorial, part testimony, these short vignettes filmed entirely by infected or affected young people will paint a raw, intimate, and informative portrait of the epidemic's impact on their lives." The half-hour show will premiere on MTV on August 18, the last day of the International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada.
Development Issues: 

HIV/AIDS, Youth.

Key Points: 

As of June 2006, the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning think: Sexual Health campaign has drawn more than 100 million viewers to its documentaries and approximately 1.2 million calls to the toll-free hotline, and has distributed more than 450,000 informational guides. More than two out of three campaign viewers are more likely to use condoms, talk to their partner about safer sex, and get tested for HIV or other STIs.

Partner Text: 

Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and MTV, with support from the Case Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Goldhirsch Foundation, and the MCJ Amelior Foundation.

Source: 

Email from Lisa Mighton to The Communication Initiative on February 22 2006; Press Release, dated June 5 2006; KFF website; and MTV think website.

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