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

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.