On Feb. 4, the African American Office of Gay Concerns (AAOGC) and Newark’s LGBTQ Commission will launch “Status Is Everything,” an HIV/STD testing and prevention social marketing campaign that aims to reach African-American gay men in Newark, N.J., and the greater Newark area. This is the first HIV prevention social marketing campaign in New Jersey to use text messaging to provide 24-hour instant access to Newark-based testing centers by texting to 36363 with “NJ” and a zip code (i.e., “NJ07102”).
The full-day event will include: a continental breakfast with AAOGC staff and key campaign spokespeople; a press conference with Mayor Cory A. Booker, President Mildred Crump of Newark’s Municipal Council and representatives from partnering HIV testing centers; mock HIV testing sessions for media opportunities; and a LGBTQ community social mixer.
AAOGC teamed with marketing firm FEMWORKS to design StatusIsEverything.org, which includes PSAs of local African-American gay men discussing their personal stories and speaking out about why getting tested is key. They have also worked to create a social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Causecast; and large-scale movie theater and outdoor advertising in the greater Newark area.
GLAAD worked with FEMWORKS to pitch the launch of this much-needed campaign to the media in hopes of raising awareness around the growing HIV rates among gay black and bisexual men. Kimberlee Williams, marketing director of FEMWORKS, spoke to GLAAD about why this campaign is crucial to the health and morale of Newark’s African-American gay community:
“This campaign came with a bundle of stories. When AAOGC approached FEMWORKS, they presented statistics and the results from five focus groups conducted by Rutgers University. The focus groups included in-depth conversations with Newark-based African-American gay men from various socioeconomic backgrounds and age groups. We learned that these young men are afraid to get tested alone. They are afraid of finding out that they may have HIV and possibly dying. And most importantly, they are afraid to approach the conversation directly. With the focus group data as our basis, we created a new media-driven campaign that was sensitive to those issues, and would motivate African-American gay men to get tested for HIV."
“Newark is the epicenter of new contractions of HIV and it is hitting the African-American community the hardest. This campaign targets African-American gay men because that is the mission of the AAOGC, but HIV is increasingly affecting African-American women as well. The existence of ‘Status Is Everything’ sounds the alarm that the African-American community must be especially targeted, and that is a void that this campaign is trying to fill. Hopefully, ‘Status’ will serve as a catalyst for other municipal departments of health across the state of New Jersey to focus on the epidemic that is ravaging the African-American community.”
“Status Is Everything’s” launch also precedes National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD), held on Feb. 7. NBHAAD was founded by five national black organizations in 1999 (Concerned Black Men, Inc. of Philadelphia; Health Watch Information and Promotion Services, Inc.; Jackson State University - Mississippi Urban Research Center; National Black Alcoholism and Addictions Council; and the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS), and is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The four objectives of NBHAAD are education, testing, involvement and treatment, all of which are designed to better serve African-Americans and members of the African Diaspora.
In honor of NBHAAD, several testing sites and non-profit organizations in Newark will have a full day of events including candlelight vigils, health fairs, testing services, testimonials and performances/skits. For more information, please visit NBHAAD online.
GLAAD recognizes the distinguished efforts of the African American Office of Gay Concerns, LGBTQ Commission and other HIV/AIDS testing and prevention sites in Newark, N.J. GLAAD also looks forward to future collaborations with these organizations.
View a "Status Is Everything" PSA below: