Originally published: April 6, 2009, 2:06 p.m.
Updated: April 7, 2009, 2:25 p.m.

On Tuesday, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the White House Domestic Policy Council and Office on AIDS Policy announced a new HIV/AIDS communications and prevention awareness campaign.

At a cost of $9 million per year for five years, the Act Against AIDS campaign will bring simple messages of HIV/AIDS prevention to communities across the nation, focusing on specifically-targeted communities at the highest risk of contracting HIV, including African-Americans, Latinos and gay and bisexual men. The new campaign includes posters, websites, TV ads and more proclaiming “Every nin-and-a-half minutes someone in the U.S. is infected with HIV.”

The campaign’s message is simple but bold, officials said at a Tuesday briefing.

“There is a serious threat to the health of our nation,” said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. “That threat is complacency, a false sense of security and a false sense of calm covering up what remains a serious epidemic.”

Fenton said that according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, overall concern about HIV in America had declined in recent years.

Keep AIDS on front burner, says CDC — New HIV/AIDS awareness campaign to refocus national attention on growing crisis
Read the in-depth article from the April 18 print issue.

“More concerning,” he said, “was that far too many” of men and women at highest risk of contracting HIV “did not even recognize that they were at risk of becoming infected.”

The Act Against AIDS campaign will reach out to specific target communities starting with African-Americans.

“Targeted efforts begin in the spring with a focus on African-Americans who by far bear the greatest burden of HIV/AIDS.”

According to Fenton, 1 in 16 black men and 1 in 30 black women will become infected with HIV in their lifetimes. Fenton said working with gay and bisexual men of all races will also be important as they “continue to represent the majority of all new HIV infections.”

The first targeted efforts with African-American communities will include a $2 million per year for five years leadership initiative with 14 of the leading African-American organizations in the nation, including the NAACP, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Phi Beta Sigma, the National Urban League, the National Newspaper Publishers Association and others.

The new campaign will include information ranging from abstinence to comprehensive sex education. It is the first federally funded domestic HIV/AIDS prevention campaign in nearly two decades.

The CDC is partnering with the Kaiser Family Foundation to form a national media coalition that will support the efforts of the institution and the Act Against AIDS campaign. Fenton said the foundation will “engage media and entertainment industries at an even deeper level” including targeted media campaigns that complement the CDC’s effort to reach specific communities of risk.

info: www.nineandahalfminutes.org

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.