A new online video series that hopes to raise HIV awareness
screened at Manhattan's LGBT Center on June 11.
The series, which is called "HIV Is Still a Big
Deal," follows the story of a young New Yorker named
Josh who has unprotected sex one night. According to
research done by Public Health Solutions, the series
has been effective in motivating other gay men to have
safer sex and get HIV-tested.
"Our major interest was in encouraging
men to disclose to their partner their HIV
status," said Dr. Mary Ann Chiasson, vice president
for Research and Evaluation for Public Health
Solution. "Not only to disclose their own
status, but to ask about their partner's status as a
way of beginning the discussion of negotiating safer sex."
The series pairs the growing interest in online
videos with story narratives and research-based
education methods that are designed to clarify HIV
misconceptions and promote critical thinking when it comes
to having sex. The target audience for the series is
males ages 25-32, who did not endure the AIDs
devastation in the 1980s.
The two episodes screened Wednesday night were
titled "The Morning After" and "The Test," which
chronicle Josh as he struggles with modern HIV issues
such as online hookups, disclosing HIV status, and
getting tested. More episodes have been planned and will
begin shooting later this year.
"It's very exciting to be part of
something larger, something that can actually mean
something to people," said David Lavine, who plays
Eric, Josh's HIV-positive love interest in the
series. "I hope they will relate to the story."
When a sample of 500 men was surveyed three
months after viewing the first episode, the results
found that these men were three times more likely to
disclose their status and about 1.5 times more likely to get
an HIV Test.
When asked about future infections of HIV,
co-project director Francine Shuchat Shaw told The Advocate, "It won't
always be a death sentence. Maybe 25 years from
now I would think there will be something that
would help. Maybe a cure at some level. At least, like
cancer, if you catch it early enough. I think it will be
like cancer research, they'll keep at it
until they can get it all."
"HIV Is Still A Big Deal" is a
collaboration between Chiasson and Shaw, in which they
both serve as project directors and writers. The series was
directed by documentary filmmaker Todd Ahlberg. In order to
ensure widespread viewing of the series, the first
episode is available on YouTube and Myspace. For more
information or to view the episodes, visit www.hivbigdeal.org.
(Paul Florez, The Advocate)