Since the first night of KIIS FM’s famed annual pop music extravaganza Jingle Ball took place in Los Angeles on World AIDS Day, Saturday December 1st, leading global nonprofit AIDS Healthcare Foundation seized the opportunity to not only provide free HIV testing at the gala through one of its mobile testing vans, but also to honor Hydeia Broadbent—a young woman HIV positive since birth and who has been an important figure in the fight against HIV/AIDS for over 20 years—presenting her with the organization’s third annual AHF World AIDS Day Award at the show. During Jingle Ball, AHF also launched its ambitious new nationwide advocacy campaign, ‘End HIV Stigma.’
AHF’s newest campaign fights to end the stigma that not only causes a feeling of alienation among those living with HIV, but also discourages people from getting testing and seeking treatment for fear of being stigmatized. This avoidance of testing is one of the reasons why one out of every three new HIV diagnoses are found in people under the age of 24, according to the CDC.
On the red carpet at Jingle Ball, celebrities including Ryan Seacrest, OneRepublic, Ne-Yo, Ellie Goulding, and the cast of Bravo’s Shahs of Sunset gave statements and testimonials about the importance of getting tested, using protection, and individually fighting HIV stigma by propagating true HIV facts – like the fact that it cannot be transmitted through simple hugging and kissing – and by insisting on equality for all, whether they are HIV-positive or -negative. A video of that red carpet commentary is available at http://youtu.be/bzLHhGegJg0.
“Make sure you go get tested,” said musical artist Ne-Yo. “You can’t assume health, it’s not a smart thing to do.”
“I know that it can be embarrassing to ask for a condom, but don’t be afraid. This is your health, this is your protection, and you’re worth it,” said Lilly Ghalichi of Shahs of Sunset.
More and more media outlets – including the Huffington Post and MTV – are focusing not only on the lives of young people who are HIV-positive, but also on the stigma facing those living with the virus that makes prevention and treatment more difficult. Through the launch of ‘End HIV Stigma,’ AHF brought that important conversation to Jingle Ball by interviewing celebrities about the impact that HIV/AIDS has had on their lives and how they feel about HIV stigma, the common name given to the baseless fear and hatred of people living with HIV.
In addition to a 30-second video about how to end HIV stigma (which debuted at Jingle Ball and received 4,000 views on YouTube in its first day up at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVOdl2iice4), AHF also launched a website (www.endhivstigma.org) to support the new campaign. The Foundation also hosted a Twitter event on World AIDS Day where people could select Tweet messages to send out to help spread truths about HIV to combat the stigma. That online event was also a success, according to AHF New Media Manager Azul del Grasso, who said the organization got 1,300 re-Tweets (including from the White House), 500 mentions, and 584 new followers that day.
The End HIV Stigma campaign is part of the build up to support a petition being circulated by Advocates for Youth that aims to globally proclaim April 10th as Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day beginning in 2013. The petition can be signed at http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/youthaidsday, and the day of awareness would draw attention to stories like that of Hydeia Broadbent, the recipient of this year’s AHF World AIDS Day Award.
Broadbent, 28, was born in 1984 with HIV as a result of her mother’s drug use. At six years old, she publicly presented herself as an activist in the fight against the spread of HIV by appearing with Magic Johnson on a televised Nickelodeon AIDS special in 1991. Broadbent’s brave coming out shed a new light on the HIV/AIDS epidemic for many, reminding the world that this condition isn’t at all some kind of “punishment” for having unprotected sex, nor is it restricted to one gender, age group, or demographic. Her tearful longing to be treated like a normal person despite her HIV-positive status resonated with people then, and her firm insistence on that same wish now rings truer than ever.
Glee’s Danny Geyer, radio personalities TJ Rhymes and Karli Henriquez, and The Vampire Diaries’ Kat Graham presented Broadbent with the third annual AHF World AIDS Day Award on Stage B in front of a receptive crowd at the concert. The young activist used her time in the spotlight to adamantly encourage everyone to get tested and learn his or her HIV status. The first two recipients of the award (in 2010 and 2011, respectively) were Magic Johnson and longtime Los Angeles area AIDS advocate Cynthia Davis, Assistant Professor, Medical Science Institute, Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science and an AHF Board Member. Watch Hydeia Broadbent receive her AHF World AIDS Day Award here: http://youtu.be/FSRHoC0z-ic.
AHF made a dent in that group who had yet to know their status by testing dozens of people at the event using the ‘INSTI’ rapid HIV test that give 99.9% accurate results in just sixty seconds. About 2,000 “INSTI” wristbands were also distributed there to remind people to take the simple test at least once a year to remain vigilantly aware of their HIV status.
“The crowd response on site by attendees of both Jingle Ball and at LA Live was really good,” said AHF Public Health Division Program Manager Rod Nuñez. “Partway through the six hours of testing AHF provided at the concert, the testing van had already seen double the number of testers they’ve come to expect from mobile testing at events.”