Friday, March 13, 2009

Youth, AIDS & Media: A Powerful Combination

By Steve Villano

Three powerful forces have been building over the past several decades, and, for the first time ever, Cable Positive—with a big boost from the Motorola Foundation—has brought them together with one single goal: saving their generation.

In two weeks, Cable Positive will convene 17 carefully selected young people—aged 16 to 23, from communities of color in Massachusetts, New York and Washington, DC-- at the inaugural session of the Youth AIDS Media Institute University in the nation’s capitol. YAMI-U, as the initiative is called, is a week of intensive training to educate and empower the participants to be HIV/AIDS media advocates using cell phones, blogs, vlogs, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube in the language—and media—that best reaches their peers.

After years of planning and hard work by Cable Positive and Motorola staff—and a remarkable grant of $250,000 from the Motorola Foundation—this groundbreaking initiative is ready to harness the three growing forces of youth, AIDS and media to educate a generation about the disease and how to prevent it.

With direct hands-on assistance from Cable Positive and Motorola staff—and new cell phones provided by Motorola—the young people from AIDS Service Organizations which Cable Positive has supported over the years, will create a multi-platform HIV/AIDS social advocacy campaign consisting of a 3-minute video—which will serve as the foundation for print, web, mobile and video elements of a full scale HIV/AIDS educational campaign.

The statistics are staggering: one of every two new HIV infections in people under 25 years of age worldwide, and in the U.S., two young people per hour are getting infected, according to the CDC. Equally striking, however, is the explosion of cell phone usage in the 13-24 year old market, where, in 2008, an astounding 85% of that market used cell phones as their primary means of communications.

The simple genius of the Cable Positive/Motorola Foundation’s Youth AIDS Media Institute (YAMI), is that it integrates the explosion of new HIV infections among the youth demographic, with the dramatic use of cell phones among that same age group.
Why not, Cable Positive and Motorola asked, use the technology of one, to fight the tenacity and trauma of the other?

Once the YAMI-U advocacy campaign is completed, by March 31, it will—in all its diverse media formats—be made available to cable systems, websites, and text messaging services around the country, as well as to hundreds of local AIDS service organizations and clinics. Cable Positive will also provide a workbook and on-line toolkit to outline the process of how to use this new multi-platform HIV/AIDS awareness campaign to combat the disease among its most vulnerable population.

Youth, AIDS & Media—is there any better way to invest your money than to save an entire generation?

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