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June 2008

June 24, 2008


Reaching Bloggers for National HIV Testing Day

Banner for AIDS.gov National HIV Testing day webinar

Last week, AIDS.gov hosted a Webinar Exit Disclaimer for bloggers in advance of National HIV Testing Day (on June 27). We reached out to bloggers for this event because so many people today depend on bloggers for their news, information, and opinions.

Who participated in the Webinar?

Participants included bloggers who blog about health-related topics and/or those who reach communities infected, affected, or at highest risk for HIV. Several of our Federal colleagues also attended the Webinar. Timothy Harrison from HHS’ Office of HIV/AIDS Policy was the moderator, and Dr. Bernie Branson from the CDC, Dr. Celia Maxwell Exit Disclaimer from Howard University Hospital, and Mr. Andre Blackman Exit Disclaimer from the Pulse & Signal Blog Exit Disclaimer presented and answered questions from bloggers.

Photo of Timothy Harrison

Timothy Harrison from HHS’ Office of HIV/AIDS Policy

Photo of Dr. Bernie Branson

Dr. Bernie Branson from the CDC

Photo of Dr. Celia Maxwell

Dr. Celia Maxwell from Howard University Hospital

Photo of Mr. Andre Blackman

Mr. Andre Blackman from the Pulse & Signal Blog

How can bloggers help promote National HIV Testing Day?

  1. Take an HIV test Exit Disclaimer and then blog about it.
  2. Promote web badges Exit Disclaimer on your blog that link people to the KNOWIT HIV testing text messaging campaign.
  3. Promote the HIV testing PPSAs we blogged about last week and mentioned during the Webinar.
  4. Link to the Webinar transcript.
  5. Host or attend a local event Exit Disclaimer for National HIV Testing Day and blog about it.

What HIV testing messages were heard on the Webinar?

  1. Some of the biggest barriers to getting tested for HIV include: stigma, fear of the results, perception of not being at-risk, and assuming their healthcare provider has already tested them.
  2. Getting an HIV test can be quick and painless! As Dr. Maxwell told us, “results can be given to the person in as little as 20 minutes. It involves a swab of the inner lining of the mouth.”
  3. The HIV epidemic is disproportionately impacting African Americans and men who have sex with men (MSM). Dr. Branson shared that “49 percent of all reported cases of AIDS in the United States occur among African Americans who represent only 12 percent of the population.”
  4. Don't be afraid to ask your healthcare provider for a test. Dr. Maxwell said, “I often say to patients this is really no different than getting your Pap smear if you’re a woman...or knowing your cholesterol. This is part of being well!”
  5. If you test positive for HIV, treatment and care are available which may help improve your health and protect your partners. To learn more about living with HIV please visit the “treatment and care” section on AIDS.gov.

What did bloggers ask about?

During the Webinar, we answered live questions from bloggers--check out the transcript. Unfortunately, we didn’t get all the questions during the Webinar, so we’ve responded to additional questions here.

What’s up next?

In closing, the AIDS.gov team wants to thank all the participants, speakers, and organizers that made this Webinar possible! We also encourage you to help spread the word about National HIV Testing Day on June 27.

Next week we’ll be returning to our series on virtual worlds...stay tuned!!

June 17, 2008


20 students. 6 universities. 8 short videos. 1 cause. National HIV Testing Day Personal Public Service Announcements

Photo of Dr. Kevin Fenton with a PPSA participant

Dr. Kevin Fenton, Director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention , with a PPSA participant

To help get the word out about National HIV Testing Day (June 27), the CDC and the University of Georgia’s New Media Institute Exit Disclaimer collaborated on an innovative new media project. More than 20 students from six universities and five AIDS organizations hit the streets with video cameras this April to produce eight short video messages Exit Disclaimer encouraging young people to be tested for HIV.

To learn more about this project, we spoke with Dr. Scott Shamp Exit Disclaimer, a professor at the University of Georgia and the director of the New Media Institute Exit Disclaimer, and with our CDC colleague Jackie Rosenthal.

What are Personal PSAs?

Public service announcements Exit Disclaimer have become a mainstay in public health efforts. What differentiates personal PSAs from traditional ones, is that in addition to being user-generated, they are shared via cell phones and social network sites Exit Disclaimer, like YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook.

Why Personal PSAs?

Rosenthal stated, “We know that there are millions of young people who consume media differently today. They are more in tune with colleagues and the world via personal communication devices such as cell phones. We started to research the role of cell phones and other mobile media devices, and how these assets can play a part in enhancing people’s lives.”

Photo of Dr. Scott Shamp

Dr. Scott Shamp, University of Georgia's New Media Institute

Dr. Shamp continued, “There is a new generation of creative individuals who can create a lot of cool things that resonate with various target audiences with very little technology.” And a cell phone allows people to send these messages friend-to-friend, colleague-to-colleague.

Creating the PPSAs

Each PPSA took a different approach to communicate the same message - HIV testing is quick, simple, painless, and VERY important.

We asked Dr. Shamp to tell us about how the PPSAs were developed. He told us that, after spending one day learning about HIV/AIDS, testing and surveillance, the students were then put into small groups and tasked with coming up with ideas for their short videos. On the second day, an expert panel approved their concepts and the groups hit the pavement with inexpensive video cameras to turn their concepts into actual video footage. On the evening of the second day, they showed the final products to all the students and project partners. “It was really exciting,” said Dr. Shamp.

The PPSA team credits two major components for bringing this project together and executing it successfully: creativity and cooperation. This endeavor required a group of partners like CDC and Verizon Wireless. Dr. Shamp stated, “It also relied heavily on crazily brave individuals to take on the production, and students and faculty, whom we call intrepid innovators, to help us carry this out from inception to completion.”

Tune in!

In anticipation of National HIV Testing Day, the PPSAs will be available on CDC’s YouTube channel Exit Disclaimer and MySpace Page Exit Disclaimer. We also encourage you to embed the video(s) Exit Disclaimer on your Web site or blog in support and observance of National HIV Testing Day.

For more information, visit the Univerisity of Georgia’s New Media Institute website Exit Disclaimer.

June 10, 2008


We Are Living in a Virtual World: Part 1

When the AIDS.gov team first started hearing about virtual worlds, we were intrigued--and a little confused. Terms like “avatar Exit Disclaimer” and “in-world meetings” were unfamiliar. Places like Second Life Exit Disclaimer, Whyville Exit Disclaimer, Club Penguin Exit Disclaimer, and Habbo Exit Disclaimer seemed mysterious.

Screen shot of HealthInfo Island on Second Life

HealthInfo Island on Second Life

NIH, CDC, and NASA have been Federal pioneers in virtual space. To learn more, we spoke to Erin Edgerton at the CDC; Andrew Hoppin, from CoLab at NASA; and Lori Bell and Carol Perryman from HealthInfo Island on Second Life--an NIH-funded project.

Our colleagues told us that virtual worlds are computer-based simulated environments Exit Disclaimer where you create your own character--or avatar.

Virtual worlds look and feel like playing a video game, but unlike a video game, you don’t win or lose. They’re places you inhabit and interact with others.

Participation in virtual worlds is increasing at an average of 15 percent per month, according to the Gartner Group Exit Disclaimer. By 2011, they estimate that 80 percent of Internet users will take part in virtual worlds.

How can we use virtual worlds to improve public health?

Screenshot of AIDS and HIV Center on Second Life

AIDS and HIV Center on Second Life

Virtual worlds can provide an immersive experience where users can get health information and practice healthy behaviors. Modeling good health behaviors in the virtual world can help turn these virtual activities into real-life behaviors.

Carol told us, “At NIH we discovered that consumer health information was one of the most important services we could provide in the virtual world. As more and more people of all ages use the Internet and spend increasing amounts of time online, we want to reach users where they are.” There are a number of medical agencies in Second Life, including professional organizations that are looking at it for training purposes, medical libraries, and support groups for people with medical problems (e.g., HIV/AIDS, Asperger’s Syndrome).

Andrew told us that NASA became interested in virtual worlds because they were looking for a space to collaborate with entrepreneurs, volunteers, and students. Once they began participating in Second Life, NASA discovered new uses for this virtual world: training, virtual prototyping, and building new partnerships. Andrew told us that, in a typical week, over 700 people visit NASA’s space in Second Life and spend approximately 650 hours per week interacting in the virtual NASA.

Screen shot of Virtual vaccinations in Whyville

Virtual vaccinations in Whyville

For two consecutive years, CDC has worked with Whyville to promote virtual vaccinations for seasonal influenza. Erin told us the CDC selected Whyville to encourage flu vaccinations “because it focused on science and education, and because of its previous research on in-world vaccinations.” Whyville citizens had the opportunity to be virtually vaccinated--preventing them from catching the “Why-Flu,” which caused red spots to appear on avatars’ faces and made them sneeze while chatting. During the first six-week activity in 2006, almost 20,000 unique Whyvillians were vaccinated.

Virtual worlds, like Whyville, aren’t just for young people. When the CDC introduced the Why-Flu, for the second time, in November 2007, they created opportunities to engage people of different generations. Once Whyville members were vaccinated, they could send invitations to their grandparents, inviting them to be virtually vaccinated. This resulted in nearly 41,000 virtual vaccinations, and over 1,800 grandparents participated.

Another addition to the 2007 activity was a two-way information exchange between CDC subject-matter experts and Whyvillians. At an in-world vaccination party, kids and grandparents talked with a live CDC expert to get answers to health questions and learn more about the CDC.

Venturing Deeper into Virtual Worlds

On July 1, we’ll finish the second part of this two-part series on virtual worlds. For the next two weeks, however, we’ll be focusing our blog posts on National HIV Testing Day (June 27) Exit Disclaimer.

In the meantime, we encourage you to spend some time in a virtual world. It is easy to sign up for a free account in Second Life, Whyville, Club Penguin, or Habbo. Each offers a unique experience and the best way to learn about these worlds is to jump in!

Hope to see you there!

June 03, 2008


Learning from Our Family Planning Colleagues

Here at AIDS.gov, we’ve learned two things over and over: Health care providers are often really excited by the possibilities of “new media”; and they have a lot of questions about what this actually means in the day-to-day functions of a program or clinic.

Photo of Miguel Gomez

Miguel Gomez, Director of AIDS.gov

In April, Miguel Gomez, director of AIDS.gov, gave a presentation on new media at the Office of Population Affairs’ HIV/AIDS conference. Those attending the conference were from Federally funded organizations trying to integrate HIV-prevention services into family planning programs.

The presentation generated a lot of good questions—and in the discussion that followed, Miguel asked over 40 attendees to share what they most wanted to know about new media and their biggest challenges in adopting or using it.

Most were excited about using new media—especially text messaging or social networking sites to reach clients—but many were either unfamiliar with new media tools and how they work, or they didn’t know how to assess which tool was right for their purposes.

We learned a lot from our colleagues at that conference, and we thought it might be helpful to share their thoughts and concerns.

Participants asked for help in these key areas:

  • How to use text messaging to connect with clients
  • How to improve website quality
  • How to use social networks (e.g., MySpace, Facebook) to interact with clients
  • How to use video games and/or virtual worlds (e.g., Second Life Exit Disclaimer) to interact with clients
  • Where to locate online forms and survey tools
  • What new media tools to use and to buy

Key Questions

The AIDS.gov team offered these responses:

  • Using text messaging to connect with clients: A number of our partners and local family planning organizations are using text messaging to send appointment reminders and medication dosing schedules to clients.
  • Improving website quality: We urged participants to engage in usability studies, which can be done with as few as 5 to 6 people. The important thing is to ask your clients what they want you to do, and then to do it well.
  • Social networking: It is important to check with clients about their needs/expectations around social networking, which takes work to keep current and relevant. Privacy issues are real (for example, staff must consider the implications of putting private things on their accounts), but posting personal information often builds trust with clients.
  • Gaming: Preliminary research indicates that there are real possibilities for using gaming to educate gamers about HIV. See our recent blog posts on gaming.
  • Using and buying new media tools: Which tools to use takes knowledge of your audience and a strong sense of what you are trying to accomplish. In some cases, free software is adequate to do what you want to do.

Facing the Challenges

  • Feeling overwhelmed/underqualified: It is easy to feel that you have to learn everything all at once, but the important thing is to figure out exactly what you are trying to do, and then find the best tool to help you do that. New media tools should lighten your workload in other areas, not burden you with something else. If your new media work isn’t replacing something else you have been doing, you may want to consider whether you should use it.
  • Getting buy-in: You will have a better chance of getting the support you need from management when you can show them the facts about new media usage by those you serve. A lot of people have misconceptions about who is using new media and who has access to it. For example, many believe there is a digital divide Exit Disclaimer that affects women, people of color, seniors, and the economically disadvantaged. Studies show, however, that the vast majority of almost all those groups are now using new media. Show the data to your management and you are very likely to get the support you need.
  • Confidentiality: We are gathering more information on this important topic. Persons and entities subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) must comply with the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules, which includes implementing administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to protect the privacy of individuals’ health information. There are ways to project a client’s rights while text messaging. We will post on this in the future. For information on the HIPAA Privacy Rule http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa/, and for information on electronic health information http://www.cms.hhs.gov/SecurityStandard/.

As part of the follow-up from this discussion, Miguel agreed to give a webcast presentation on the use of new media for family planning agencies in New England. The recording will be available on www.famplan.org Exit Disclaimer soon.

Moving Forward

As always, our most important advice for our colleagues and partners is “Look before you leap!” Using new media requires realizing that time and staff commitment are necessary to use it well. Start with what you want to accomplish, and then direct your efforts toward the new media tool(s) that will help you achieve your goals.

Our question for you is this: What does your organization hope/expect to accomplish using new media? Please share your answers with us!

Stay tuned for next week’s discussion of virtual worlds and public health.

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