According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state of Georgia led the US in the number of people diagnosed with HIV in 2016. In Georgia, one in six people infected with HIV are unaware that they are HIV-positive.

Thursday, Fulton County Board of Health launched a social marketing campaign “designed to end HIV in Fulton county by raising awareness of HIV, eliminating stigma and providing information about new medications.”

At a June 21 media launch, the Board of Health unveiled campaign visuals and initiated a pledge by civic leaders, celebrities, residents and influencers to join the fight to stop HIV in Atlanta.

The campaign’s message is simple: “Together we can stop the clock on the HIV epidemic in 3 steps.” The steps are getting tested for HIV at least once a year, getting treatment if positive, and get on PrEP if negative but engaging in activities that put you at risk.

The campaign logo features the top half of a stopwatch with the Atlanta skyline in the background. Underneath, the hashtag and slogan #StopHIVATL.

Rigness Rush, one of the designers on the campaign, explained the stopwatch logo: “The stopwatch causes people to understand that it takes just a moment. There is a rhythm that we have when we’re going through our daily lives and sometimes we don’t think about risk while we’re enveloped in our rhythm.”

“It’s a very powerful foundation if people really start reconsidering who’s at risk, why they’re at risk and how they can prevent themselves from becoming infected with HIV,” he continued.

Queen Sheba, a spoken word artist who kicked off the program, recalls being a child in her mother’s living room, getting a talk about HIV.

“It’s really super important that people have that conversation with their kids. And it makes you think every time that you go out with someone or someone wants to be intimate, or how quickly people want to be intimate, you make a healthy decision for yourself,” she said.

Along with raising awareness, the campaign is intended to play a role in decreasing the negative stigma attached to HIV. Rush cites a “communal type of love,” as the key to defeating that stigma.

Celebrity ambassador Miss Lawrence echoed that sentiment. “We are all here as brothers and sisters occupying the same space and the same time right here in the city,” the star said. “The important thing is to lead and move with love first, knowing that we are actually responsible for one another.”

Aside from community leaders and Board of Health employees, there were a few familiar faces in the crowd Melissa Scott, of Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta, was expressed the uniqueness of the campaign’s approach. “Before, it was like ‘oh you’ve got [HIV]; let’s react to it.’ Now, it seems like people are being proactive and aggressive with regards to preventing it.”

Dr. David Holland of the Fulton County Board of Health explained some of the innovative strategies and new technology that the Board of Health is implementing.

“We have to do more. We have to do new things. Innovative things,” he urged. “Statistics tell us what happened. They tell us about the past. They do not tell us what has to happen in the future.”

Holland also  introduced a pilot program for test and treat, in which people would go to a clinic and receive treatment immediately after they test positive. The Board of Health is also working on offering mobile PrEP services and is one of the first in the country to open av PrEP clinic based in a health department.

Following a number of  remarks, Derick B. Wilson, program manager for the BOH’s Health Insurance Premium Payment Program (HIPP), led the audience and community leaders in a pledge to help stop HIV.

As everyone recited the pledge, volunteers drew back the white curtains that had stood the whole morning, to reveal the campaign visuals. The posters featured everyday community members, giving how and why they stay prepared to fight HIV.

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