Award-winning actors and recording artists Jamie Foxx and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges are joining other celebrities and African-American leaders to promote “i know,” a social media effort launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The “i know” effort will provide new channels for African-American young adults to talk openly and often about HIV, both online and off.
As a new element of CDC’s Act Against AIDS campaign, “i know” will get the facts about HIV/AIDS out far and wide to this hard-hit population through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, a new website, and text messages aimed at sparking conversation. Celebrities including Foxx and Ludacris, along with participating African-American organizations, will also use their own Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to increase participation and expand the conversation’s reach.
“The ‘i know’ effort is part of CDC’s commitment to addressing the silence around HIV and inviting African-American young adults to take charge of the conversation,” said Kevin Fenton, M.D., director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/ AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention. “At CDC, we have the science, but it is their voices that will make the difference. By supporting frank conversations through social media, ‘i know’ creates an opportunity for young people to talk directly with each other about the issues that fuel this still-deadly disease. Their ideas and involvement will be a critical part of the solution.”
Foxx will also lend his star power to a series of radio and online video public service announcements. For example, in one of the “i know” PSAs, Foxx highlights the importance of talking about HIV: “We need to do something—all of us—and especially young people. We can start by talking about HIV with our partners, our family, our friends.”
CDC officials unveiled the effort at a Clark Atlanta University event intended to engage on-campus and online college student audiences. The event and concert will feature nationally known social and political commentator Jeff Johnson and recording artist Jeremih and will be webcast to college students across the country.
Younger African-Americans are among the populations hardest-hit by HIV. While African-Americans represent just 14 percent of people ages 13 to 29 years in the United States, they account for half of all new HIV infections in that age group. Young Black gay and bisexual men are especially affected, representing more than half (55 percent) of new infections among African-Americans 13-29.
Despite this heavy toll, concern about HIV is declining among younger African-Americans. A recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that between 1997 and 2009, the number of African-Americans aged 18-29 who reported being very concerned about becoming infected with HIV declined from 54 percent to 40 percent. “i know” is designed to combat this complacency by encouraging dialogue about HIV among African-Americans ages 18 to 24 years—focusing on HIV testing, condom use and other ways to reduce risk of HIV infection, including abstaining from sex, facts about HIV transmission, and ways to reduce the stigma associated with the disease.
“The voices of young people are key to ending HIV within the African-American community,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. “We know that the simple act of talking about HIV can help change the course of the epidemic, by reducing stigma associated with the disease, increasing knowledge about HIV prevention, and motivating life-saving behaviors.”
The effort is part of CDC’s Act Against AIDS campaign, a five-year, $45 million national communication campaign which aims to combat complacency about the HIV/AIDS crisis in the United States. Launched last year, the Act Against AIDS campaign also uses targeted prevention messages and information to better reach specific communities at risk for HIV, including African-Americans.
(For more information on Act Against AIDS and “i know,” visit www.actagainstaids.org.)