With the rate of newly diagnosed HIV infections in Australia beginning to rise again, health organisations have been looking at ways of reinvigorating an old message.

    The massive campaigns of the 1980s and 1990s to promote safe sex, garner community support for people living with HIV/AIDS and raise money for research were spearheaded by big spending on the main marketing vehicles at the time: ads on TV and in cinemas, as well as in newspapers and magazines.

    They were successful at the time but in the past 14 years, the number of new diagnoses has been gradually increasing, according to a paper on The Conversation website.

    In the meantime, the United Nations has adopted a goal of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths and new research has shown that early treatment is associated with a dramatic reduction in the transmission of HIV between sexual partners.

    The challenge has been to decide the best way to mobilise the community once more, says Mark Orr, President of the NSW-based organisation ACON, which specialises in HIV and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex health.

    "There was a belief within the organisation that it was an opportune time to reinvigorate our message within the gay community, particularly on the back of the UN declaration," says Orr.

    The issues of ensuring high HIV testing rates and maintaining a safe sex culture were not new, but the board wanted to enliven the conversation and bring everyone up to date with the latest science on HIV prevention.

    Building consensus among various partner organisations and stakeholders, including the government, research bodies and clinicians, was a major priority. But Orr says creative tension isn’t a bad thing: "It can positively influence the development of ideas and help sustain our partnership approach to HIV prevention."

    ‘Ending HIV’ launched in February 2013. It’s a rolling campaign under the mantra: ‘Test more. Treat early. Stay safe’. In addition to traditional gay media, ACON put the message out on social media platforms and on banners, billboards and bus shelters on the streets where gay men live.

    It’s showing results. In 2013 there was a 6.5 per cent increase in HIV tests conducted among sexually active homosexual men in NSW. "Much of that was in Sydney’s inner-city and western Sydney, the areas we’re targeting," says Orr.

    "A community mobilisation platform with easily-digestible information gives the message longevity, and shows people how to make Ending HIV a personal and community call to action." Orr says.

    In other words…

    • Campaigns need regular revision to reflect changing times and attitudes.
    • Use multimedia platforms that reach your target market where they work, live and recreate.
    • Build consensus with partners and keep the message simple, relevant and current.

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