The drive involve Dr Carlos Peralta from the University of Brighton’s School of Architecture and Design, HIV experts Dr Gillian Dean, Dr Jaime Vera, Dr Eileen Nixon from Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust and Dr Mary Darking from the University of Brighton’s School of Applied Social Science .
The campaign, part of a research project funded by Public Health England, is launched this month (July) by the Martin Fisher Foundation, set up in the city to take forward the work of Professor Martin Fisher, internationally-renowned HIV expert who died in 2015.
The information initiative aims to change people’s perceptions and behaviours to eliminate stigmatising attitudes towards people living with HIV, and all university staff and students are being urged to join in and to spread the word.
The campaign has a series of messages. One is: “Did you know that as an HIV+ person on treatment, with an undetectable viral load, I cannot pass it on?”
Another message is that while “HIV isn’t scary anymore; HIV stigma hurts and wrecks lives”.
Professor Debra Humphris, the university’s Vice-Chancellor, said: “We are honoured to be joining this very important campaign. Stigma surrounding HIV causes misery to so many people and I would urge everyone to support the campaign and to spread the word far and wide that it’s time to eradicate this from society.”
Project manager, Dr Liliana Rodriguez, from the Martin Fisher Foundation, said: “Please support our online campaign by signing up to our ‘Thunderclap’ which allows a single message to be sent from your Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr account on the launch date of our digital campaign to address HIV stigma and provide current information on HIV treatment and care.
The Foundation has been working with local film makers, animators, illustrators, designers, patients, clinicians, and researchers to create a thought-provoking campaign which will convey accurate and consistent information to the general population of Brighton & Hove.
Dr Gillian Dean said: “By connecting through social media with no geographical boundaries, we want to reach a wider national and international audience. We want to improve knowledge of recent advances in HIV and encourage people to think about how people with HIV might feel when they hear insensitive, inaccurate and tactless comments, and what we can all do to change the status quo.”
Four ‘Don’t Be a Stigmasaur’ videos have been produced: 1 and 2 target relatives and close friends of people living with HIV (40-60-year olds); 3 targets the general population not living with HIV and aims to respond to people with false HIV stereotypes, and 4 targets a younger generation (16-24) and provides facts about HIV to dispel myths and misinformation about living with HIV. We also have personal testimonials from people living with HIV explaining how stigma has affected them’.
“This is a unique campaign so please help us spread the word and get in touch if you know anyone who can help.”
Collaborating on the project are the University of Brighton, Public Health England, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Diptico Design, patient representatives and members of the public. The campaign is now seeking media influencers, celebrities and sponsors to join.
Dr Mary Darking who is evaluating the results of the campaign said: “This is a very distinctive campaign and the evaluation approach used has to reflect that. My first aim is to provide feedback as the project progresses which we call formative evaluation. Secondly, I am evaluating the process of creating the campaign to see what lessons can be learned. Lastly, I am evaluating the outcomes of the campaign in terms of its reach, its message and whether key elements of information contained within it are understood.”
Dr Carlos Peralta, who led the design and creative aspects of the campaign, said: “A lot has changed but stigma and misinformation about HIV are still widespread.
“The ‘Making HIV stigma history’ campaign, based on direct consultation with people living with HIV and members of the general population through design-inspired participatory workshops, seeks to change this situation and contribute to the wellbeing of people living with HIV.”