Today over 3,000 Iowans are living with HIV. Each day, people living with HIV (PLWH) are faced with finding appropriate medical care, staying adherent to medications, and facing personal and societal stigma related to HIV. Stop HIV Iowa, in conjunction with the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), has implemented a multi-dimensional media campaign to reduce new cases of HIV and improve the lives of PLWH across the state.
The Stop HIV Iowa campaign began in 2015 with a small budget, but large intentions. The campaign prioritized print publications in areas of the state served by the Ryan White Part B client services program. The goal seemed simple: to stop transmission of HIV in Iowa. But that was actually a very large and complicated feat. This is why the campaign started with a simple message to “Get Tested,” and borrowed media materials from the Act Against AIDS campaign created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stop HIV Iowa needed to build a brand that Iowans would begin to recognize, and then hoped to use that brand to spur statewide action. It has worked; the messages have corresponded with a substantial increase in the number of individuals accessing testing services at public test sites across Iowa.
Fast forward to 2018, and Stop HIV Iowa has a large integrated approach to messaging that uses innovative delivery tactics to ensure messages reach the right audiences. The campaign places advertisements in 306 print publications across all of Iowa’s 99 counties and has a digital and social media presence. The campaign’s current online landing page will soon be a comprehensive website for health care providers and the general public to access Iowa-specific information related to prevention, treatment, case management and other vital services. Newly launched peer-to-peer radio ads are also starting to run throughout the state. Stopping HIV in Iowa is still the goal, but the message has grown far beyond its “Get Tested” roots. The goals now include educating providers, reducing stigma, and helping to improve health outcomes for PLWH across the state.
One way that Stop HIV Iowa hopes to increase health outcomes and decrease stigma is by promoting the Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U) message to Iowans. All Iowans should know that when someone who is living with HIV is on effective treatment such that the level of virus in their blood is “undetectable,” that person has effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to a sexual partner, and can live a long and healthy life. The Prevention Access Campaign promotes U=U messaging on a global level, and Stop HIV Iowa hopes to support these messages here at home.
Stop HIV Iowa and IDPH are committed to working with partners across the state to continue reducing stigma, encouraging Iowans to get tested, preventing transmission to others, and creating easier pathways to care for PLWH. We stand united with the 3,000 Iowans who are living with HIV and will continue to work towards our mission of ending the epidemic in Iowa.