Thursday, June 26, 2008

June 27th, National HIV Testing Day

by Thomas Henning

Friday, June 27th, is National HIV Testing Day, a day that is sadly not receiving the attention it rightfully deserves.

In lieu of this, I want to use my blog to share some recent statistics from the CDC, to give you a snap shot of how the HIV/AIDS epidemic is affecting communities across the country.

- There are about 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States right now.

- 1 out of every 4 people with HIV doesn’t know they are infected, greatly increasing the chances of spreading the virus.

- HIV was the 4th leading cause of death for African American men, and the 3rd for African American women.

- HIV infection has risen 1000% among heterosexuals since 1985.

- In 2005, teen girls represented 43% of AIDS cases reported among 13 – 19 year olds.

We have much more work to do before this disease is eradicated and there are many ways to be a proactive member of not only your personal community, but your professional community as well. Make sure your human resources department has HIV/AIDS Fact Sheets on hand to distribute to employees who need information. Have a list of testing centers in your area on hand to distribute to employees and loved ones. Have the latest HIV/AIDS prevention methods your employee training curriculum.

Empowering individuals with the knowledge of their status and preventative measures to maintain an HIV negative status is vital to releasing the choke hold the virus has on many communities around the United States. Visit for HIV/AIDS-related public service announcements and to learn about more ways to make a difference in your community.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


By Steve Villano

One of the biggest fears in television, for an internet provider or user, or for a cell phone manufacturer or admitted text messaging addict, is that suddenly, without warning, the television screen, computer monitor or cell phone video screen goes blank. No picture, no information, nothing. Nada. Just grey snow.

When that happens now, it’s usually the result of a technical glitch, which after some tinkering, rebooting, or time on the phone with a tech rep, is repaired, and our virtual life is restored in living color. For a minute, or at most two, our visual world is put on hold, and we realize how dependent we’ve become on our devices.

But suppose, the black-out occurred in another way. Suppose that content was no longer being produced? Suppose we clicked on our flat-screen TVs, or our lap-tops, Razrs, Q’s, Blackberries and I-phones and there was nothing there? What would fill the void? Probably some new kind of content, whether it were text, still photos, or grainy home-made movies like the kind we find on You-Tube. Nature abhors a vacuum, and naturally profitable media where the best content is spun into gold, abhors it even more.

However, another, more subtle form of black-out is occurring right before our very eyes, and we’re not even noticing. Pro-bono airtime for Cable Positive’s visual messages of education and awareness about HIV/AIDS is disappearing. After 16 years of the cable industry donating more than one-billion dollars of pro-bono airtime for 30-second Cable Positive PSAs or short documentaries, the free space is getting harder to come by. It’s why Cable Positive has launched our first “Air The Spots” video and internet campaign to underscore the urgency of the need for continuing HIV/AIDS education and awareness on cable’s airways.

A menu of reasons have been given for the squeeze on public service time devoted to HIV/AIDS awareness that has distinguished the Cable industry from all others around the world as a model of corporate social responsibility on the most important health issue of our time. Those have included: competing social marketing campaigns, competing PSAs, company-produced promos fighting off other media (satellite, telephone), a growing demand for political ad space (especially in a Presidential Election year), and the increasing cost of cable’s airtime.

The airtime squeeze is on at precisely the same time that international and domestic agencies devoted to fighting AIDS are calling for more messaging on HIV/AIDS awareness, education and prevention, especially since HIV infections continue to rise and possibilities for an AIDS vaccine or cure grow dimmer. Ironically, with less time available, the quality of HIV/AIDS related programming and PSAs continues to get more powerful and more personal. Cable Positive’s 45-minute documentary on “Women & HIV,” aired on Showtime Networks in December, with copies of the highly informative show being requested by hundreds of AIDS service organizations and clinics around the country, including the National Institute of Health.

PSAs have become much more impactful, from Cable Positive’s 3-year “Join the Fight” campaign featuring an entire cast of celebrities and generating several million hits to our website, to our present extraordinarily personal “We Have Work To Do” campaign which presents a series of 30-second life stories of people living with HIV.

Yet while the content is getting stronger and more gripping, the delivery system for these life-affirming messages—with some exceptions—is getting tougher to tie together. Our “Air The Spots” messages have helped enlist messengers like Cox (Las Vegas, Virginia, Atlanta, Phoenix), Time Warner Cable (Columbus, Albany/Schenectady, NY and El Segundo, CA), Comcast (San Francisco, Arkansas), Charter (Colorado, California) Cablevision (New Jersey) CableOne (Phoenix), Bright House (St. Petersburg, FL) and Suddenlink (St. Louis). On the network side, Showtime, soapNET, hereTV!, SITV and Bloomberg have pledged to “Air The Spots.”

Unfortunately, HIV/AIDS is not just the responsibility of a few select communities or networks. In fact, in many key cable markets around the country—particularly in communities of color—HIV infection rates are rapidly increasing, and the only way to reach people is through the devices—television, computers, cell phones, iPods—which dominate their lives.

There will always be competing interests, issues and a cause, as well as corporate necessities to consider in an industry where time, literally is money. However, there have always been, and will always be competing needs. Yet, this industry has always put fighting HIV/AIDS through awareness & education at the very top of its agenda, backing its social responsibility up with $20 million in cash contributions, more than $1 billion in pro-bono airtime, extraordinary network commitments to air documentaries, and hundreds of community-based partnerships across the country between local cable systems and local AIDS service organization.

The cable industry’s commitment to Cable Positive and to fighting HIV/AIDS is an investment made in time, talent and money, a model of industry-wide corporate social responsibility for the entire world to follow. Our powerfully successful “Project Home” volunteer project in New Orleans demonstrated clearly how so many industry leaders and activists – working shoulder to shoulder – can do so much good…

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Univision Sweeps at Cable Positive's 7th Annual POP Awards

Univision garnered the POP Network of the Year Award and Dan Moloney, Executive Vice President, Motorola, took home the second ever TelevisionWeek HIV/AIDS Education Advocate of the Year Award at Cable Positive’s 7th Annual POP Awards (Positively Outstanding Programming) last night at the Time Warner Center in New York City. Univision is the first non-English speaking network to take home POP Network of the Year in the award’s history. Time Warner Cable joined Rainbow Media as presenting sponsor of Cable Positive’s POP Awards, held annually to both encourage and reward outstanding programming in the area of HIV/AIDS.

The event was hosted by Frederick Weller, who stared on Broadway in “Take me Out” and “Glengarry Glen Ross” and is appearing in USA Network’s new series “In Plain Sight.” Award Presenters included Marvelyn Brown, Author and Emmy Award-winning HIV/AIDS activist; Jack Mackenroth, Designer, appeared on Bravo’s “Project Runway;” Alesha Renee, Host of BET’s “The 5ive;” Matt Singer, Host of IFC’s News On-Air; and Kim Stolz, MTV News Correspondent and mtvU VJ.

Dan Moloney, Executive Vice President, Motorola, Inc. received the second ever HIV/AIDS Education Advocate of the Year Award, presented by TelevisionWeek. Under Dan’s leadership, Motorola made the single largest grant in Cable Positive’s history for the creation of The Youth AIDS Media Institute (YAMI) through the Motorola Foundation. The grant provided Cable Positive with $200,000 to launch the program, targeting youth across the U.S. and challenging them to create HIV/AIDS awareness messages in their own voices to educate their peers about the disease.

Sponsors for the 2008 event included: Time Warner Cable, Rainbow Media, TelevisionWeek, NY1 News, Showtime, HBO, Turner, Motorola, Univision, Suddenlink, NBC Universal, Sundance, Retirement Living, Arris, and BET.

The following cable networks and programs were recognized for creating television that carries educational value and promotes awareness/prevention in the fight against HIV/AIDS:

Original Series: College Hill Season 4 – BET

Outstanding Special Programming: I Want to be a Pilot – Sundance Channel

Outstanding Original Film/Movie: Reflections – BET

Outstanding Documentary: Positive Voices: Women & HIV – Showtime

Outstanding Original Spanish Language Programming: Asi es La Vida episode Com Dominio Total – Telefutura

Outstanding Spanish Language PSA: Salud es Vida…Enterate! - Univision

Outstanding News Coverage: House Call with Sanjay Gupta “World AIDS Day: South Africa’s Story” – CNN

Outstanding Biographical Programming: Cause Effect: Episode 3 “National AIDS Fund/American Red Cross” – MTVU

Outstanding PSA: HIV Testing PSA – HBO

Outstanding PSA Campaign: Scenarios Series – Rap-It-Up, BET/Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Outstanding Community Partnership: “Lies PSA” – Suddenlink/Covenant House AIDS Residential & Resource Program

POP Network of the Year: Univision

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Passion for Art, and for People

By Steve Villano

Josh Sapan is a passionate man.

The Chairman & CEO of Rainbow Media, who is a long-time member of Cable Positive’s advisory board of Honorary Chairs, is passionate about people and about many, many things that celebrate life. If you knew nothing about Josh Sapan, but just watched him for a while, observed how carefully he listens to people, how empathetically he responds and how easily he laughs with you, you would learn a good deal about this good man.

You could talk to people who work with him like the IFC’s Evan Shapiro, or Rainbow’s Christine Bragan, or people who’ve dealt with him from other cable networks or systems to get evidence of this fine humanitarian in our midst. Or, you can simply look at the things he does.

I could point out to you all of the non-profit Boards Josh serves on that enrich the quality of our lives, or the passion he has for the historic preservation of old theatres, and old movies. But, his addiction to another type of art—and his generosity with it—is even more astounding.

For years, Josh Sapan rummaged through people’s garbage—at garage sales, estate sales, art school dumpsters, and on the streets of NYC—for the artwork they no longer loved. He picked it up, dusted it off, and allowed the art to start all over again to attract new adherents. He kept what he called this “discarded art,” in his garage, his basement—wherever he could find room for his growing collection. So, one could legitimately ask, why is a grown man doing this? He wasn’t hoarding the art, hoping for a long-lost Picasso or Rauschenberg. He wasn’t planning to open an art gallery, or smuggling bootlegged DVDs behind each canvas.

I don’t think the answer is very complicated, if you look at Josh’s work and life. To him, creativity is the opposite of death; it is eternal. If a human being took the time, effort and courage to create a work of art—a book, a film, a radio program, a theatre, or a painting—then the creation is, itself, alive with humanity and hope. But, Josh’s “hobby”—as some have misnamed this passion—had a Gift of the Magi type consequence that would have made O’Henry proud.

Sure, he donated a number of pieces to Cable Positive that sold on E-bay to people from around the world and raised nearly $5,000 to fight AIDS. That’s not what I’m referring to, although I am grateful for his gift. Last month, Josh Sapan came to the Ninth Ward in New Orleans and donated 35 pieces of his “discarded art” to folks who are sometimes viewed as being discarded themselves—people who are HIV positive and live in two AIDS group-residences in New Orleans. Each resident was invited to select one piece of artwork from Josh’s collection to decorate the room in which he or she lived. One resident, who lived in Lazarus House, selected a colorful, abstract piece of art, of what looked like a mountain range.

The resident, a 73-year old African-American man of great dignity, drove a long-haul truck for most of his working life, played rhythm and blues whenever he could, and taught himself photography. Hurricane Katrina wiped out everything he owned, including his collection of photographs, his camera equipment, and all of his music collected lovingly over the years.

He looked carefully at the piece of Josh Sapan’s artwork he had selected to be his own.

“Maybe this will help me move on,” he said. “Help me get out of my depression and inspire me to start taking photographs again.”

“I just need to get a new camera,” he added. “Only a single-lens, manual camera—not one of those automated, digital ones. The manual cameras take the best photographs.”

Josh Sapan’s rescued artwork had sparked another fellow human’s creativity and hope for the future, and several of Josh’s cable industry colleagues responded immediately to this magical connection. Spencer Kaitz, who’s family is not unfamiliar to creating new opportunities for people, donated money to purchase the Lazarus House resident a new camera, as did Ellen Kroner of Josh’s own Rainbow Media Team.

So Josh’s one small act of love, of preservation of one human being’s work of creativity, has inspired another to create again and others to participate in that life-force of creation—a more powerful and positive force than any of the storms we all endure.