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Get Smart: Social Media Campaign Seeks to Change How We Look at HIV

February 29, 2016

HIV Smart campaign

Justin B. Terry-Smith, Mr. Maryland Leather 2010.

I first heard about the HIV Smart campaign on Facebook and was curious about what it means. Social media has become a huge part of HIV campaigns, but this campaign is the first of its kind that I've seen since PrEP.

I attended photo shoots in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., both with good turn outs. The pictures are meant to be shared on all social media including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. This campaign raises awareness of how we mentally see people with HIV and HIV itself. While the mission is that people think smarter (hence the glasses) about HIV, it reduces HIV stigma at the same time. It also expands its target audience beyond gay men and MSM to include women and heterosexual men to find out what they think about the benefits of PrEP and PEP.

HIV Smart is a newly developed nonprofit organization that focuses on education about preventative methods (PrEP/PEP), education about risk behaviors, advocating HIV testing and the importance of knowing your status. HIV Smart also creates awareness about the significant link between people living with HIV and depression, and last but not least, places an emphasis on fighting stigma.

Working with photographer Ryan Colford was fantastic, and he is amazing. Ryan is the founder and president of HIV Smart. He created this campaign "to dispel ignorance because of all the disinformation still being circulated to the public in an age of technology. Real facts need to be known, and should be shared."

HIV Smart campaign

Ryan Colford, founder of HIV Smart campaign.

The heart of HIV Smart campaign is a social media photo campaign. We encourage everyone to use their pictures on all forms of social media from Facebook to Instagram to Twitter. The recognizable imagery will help to raise awareness through increased visibility and foster real intelligent conversations relaying facts and dispelling myths. These discussions will cover the challenges associated with the virus and stress the importance of treating all people with dignity and compassion.

Ryan developed the idea of forming the organization, corresponding website, and blending it with his talents as a photographer by adding a social media photo campaign.

Our goals are to create multiple photo events in each of the 50 states with a significant focus on the top five states with the highest transmission rates (New York, Florida, California, Georgia and Texas). We hope that each photo event will help educate everyone regardless of status, create more public awareness that it's a disease, and reinforce that shame of any sort should never be associated with HIV.

Here are a few examples:

HIV Smart campaign

In Baltimore, the HIV Smart Campaign was hosted by Mr. Maryland Leather 2016.

HIV Smart campaign

In Washington, D.C., the HIV Smart Campaign was hosted by Mr. D.C. Eagle 2016.

HIV Smart campaign

In New York, the HIV Smart Campaign was hosted by Mr. New York Eagle 2016.

For more information, please visit the HIV Smart Website.

Donate to the HIV Smart campaign.

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Justin's HIV Journal

Justin B. Terry-Smith

Justin B. Terry-Smith

Justin B. Terry-Smith, M.P.H., may be one of the most public African Americans living with HIV: He has his own website, and he's even on YouTube. He is a noted HIV and gay civil rights activist and the creator of "Justin's HIV Journal," a popular blog in which he shares his trials and tribulations of living with HIV. A U.S. Air Force veteran, Justin resides in Laurel, Maryland, with his husband, Dr. Philip Terry-Smith, and their son, Lundyn. Presently, Justin is working toward earning his doctorate in public health. He welcomes your questions.
(Photo credit: Don Harris)

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