The colorful, bilingual advertisements first began to appear on San Francisco mass-transit buses in June. The messages and images they contain are simple but bold. In one ad, a gay Latino man is shown affectionately hugging his partner, while the adjacent text reads: “I don’t want to hurt my family. That makes talking about the truth so hard.” Another ad urges the public to “see [gay and bisexual Latinos] for who [they are],” then speaks directly to gay readers: “You deserve to be accepted.” One of the most powerful ads in the series delivers a subtle but clear HIV/AIDS prevention message: “Because I love my friends and family I can’t risk my health.”
This pioneering public awareness campaign was created by AGUILAS, a San Francisco non-profit advocacy organization serving the city’s Latino Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. AGUILAS, which stands for Asociacion Gay Unida Impactando Latinos/as A Superarse (Association of Gay Latinos/Latinas United to Empower Ourselves), provides its members with many support services, including El Ambiente, a highly successful HIV prevention program developed by and for gay and bisexual Latino men. El Ambiente has managed to reduce participants’ HIV risk behavior by an estimated 50% to 70% over the past four years.
Funded by the San Francisco Health Department’s AIDS Office, the advertising campaign is designed to make the general public aware of critical issues facing the Latino LGBT community, including isolation, the need for friends’ and families’ support, cultural connection/re-connection, discrimination, and risk factors for developing and spreading HIV/AIDS. According to AGUILAS Executive Director Eduardo Morales, PhD, “These ads have two purposes: first, to reduce the barriers to HIV prevention in gay men and secondly, to reduce the social stigma the Latino LGBT community faces. In fact, social stigmas in and of themselves create barriers to HIV prevention.”
To identify the key messages that needed to be communicated in the campaign, AGUILAS conducted focus groups of Latino gay and bisexual men. The images used in the ads are photos of real people living in the San Francisco Bay Area, along with pictures of their families. “Our members were involved in the creative process from the very beginning,” the AGUILAS Web site explains. “They contributed with ideas and personal photos that illustrated all the campaign ads. Their real concerns made us take into consideration the many barriers we face in order to reduce the risk of HIV.”
In addition to appearing on the exterior and interior of city buses, the ads are also being distributed in smaller, postcard-sized versions at cafes, bookstores and businesses throughout San Francisco. The campaign is particularly targeting the city’s Mission district, which has a large Spanish-speaking population, and the Castro district, which has a large gay population.
Nurses can find out more about this culturally and linguistically competent HIV prevention program at http://www.sfaguilas.org/.
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