“How WE acquired HIV doesn't matter; how YOU react to it does."
Who Are We?
We are members of the Young Adult Program (YAP), a group of HIV+ youth (ages 16-25) who are committed to raising awareness of the struggles we face every day. YAP is a support program for HIV+ young people run by the Spencer Cox Center for Health, which is part of the Institute for Advanced Medicine at Mount Sinai Health System. The mission of YAP is to improve health outcomes of HIV+ young people by engaging them in and improving their compliance to medical care and supporting their transition from adolescence to young adulthood. YAP gives us a safe, stable, and supportive medical home where we can address our medical needs, receive support services (across social work and mental health) and meet others ‘like us’ at our weekly support group meeting and on monthly off-site social and recreational outings. Through this program, we are empowered to share our stories and educate the public about what life is like for young people who live with HIV/AIDS.
What Problem Are We Trying to Solve?
People living with HIV often feel voiceless or invisible. They fear that if they share their HIV status with others, they will be stigmatized or discriminated against. We know, because these experiences are our own. To combat these feelings in ourselves and in others, we create public service announcement (PSA) videos that depict our reality and offer hope and support for others in our situation, and share them with the broader community. Between 2011 and 2013, we made PSAs that covered the following themes:
· HIV-related stigma
· Cutting-edge HIV treatments
· The importance of taking your HIV meds
· Dating and having a family while HIV+
Here is a beautiful short that encourages HIV+ people to stay on the medication that helps them live long healthy lives:
All of our videos are created through the for-us-by-us model adopted by MyMediaLife, a Connected Health Solutions, Inc. project that is designed to teach youth marketable creative skills while empowering them to express their opinions and share them with a broader viewership. From 2011 to the present, this program has not only provided us with unique and valuable skills (including critical thinking, writing, collaboration, and leadership development) and helped many of us improve our health, but it has also resulted in a powerful series of PSAs that spread knowledge and fight the stigma that deprives people living with HIV of their voice and the support to survive and thrive. The creation of these films gives us a rare opportunity to take charge, push back, and become agents of change.
This is "Summer" discussing why she is running this campaign to make more PSAs.
What is the Scope of the Problem?
This project is focused on educating people about HIV/AIDS, specifically for young people in the most vulnerable communities. Youth aged 13-24 are at very high risk for becoming infected with HIV. In fact, about 1 in 4 (26%) of all new HIV infections is among this age group. Of those infections, about 4 in 5 occur in young men of color. Further, approximately 60% of youth with HIV do not know they are infected and therefore do not receive treatment, putting them at risk for sickness and early death. These youthare more likely to unknowingly pass HIV to others. To learn more about HIV in young populations, visit the CDC’s factsheet on HIV among Youth in the U.S.
How Can You Help?
Between 2011 and 2013, our collaboration with MyMediaLife was federally funded through the Ryan White Part D program. Unfortunately, we were recently informed that this funding can no longer be used for new media work. This is where you come in! We are asking for your support in letting us continue this meaningful and lifesaving work. Your contribution will support a series of intensive, interactive, and engaging workshops that help us to identify issues, nuances, and behavioral strategies that will contribute to better outcomes for our health and well-being. Contributions will also cover pre/post-production costs, including filming, editing, sound mixing, and music composition. We hope to disseminate our short films widely and screen them for young people across NYC, and hopefully around the country. We'll also be designing posters that go with each of the films and will send these to supporters hot-off-the-press! Check out our exciting perks for more details.*
If we are funded, we want to make further campaigns that address:
· Advances in HIV treatment and how it has evolved over time
· Coping with side effects of HIV medications
· Challenges and successes of HIV disclosure
This amazing video (below) features two young women in the YAP group born with HIV who have a message for other positive people - you can have healthy children even if you have HIV!
And if that isn’t exciting enough, your donation is tax-deductible through Mt. Sinai-St. Luke's Hospital - a 501(c)3 organization!
*We'd like to raise more than the stated goal to have the opportunity to disseminate more media messages and reach a larger audience. Our program is at the mercy of a small number of private donors and government programs. Residual funds raised will also be used to support the ongoing sustainability of YAP, until there is a cure and the program is no longer needed.
How Else Can You Help?
Spread the word! Pass this link onto everyone you know. Post it on your Facebook page. Tweet it to your followers. Pin it to your Pinterest board. Blast it on MySpace. Talk about it to your neighbor on your morning commute. Mail it in hard-copy to your grandmother. We want to make sure as many young people as possible see our message and watch our videos so that they know they are not alone.
Testimonials: What Do Participants Say About This Project?
“MyMediaLife (MML) has been working with the group that I attend for 3 years producing beautiful, effective PSAs. This year was my first time working with Connected Health Solutions, Inc. Coming into this experience, I was struggling with so many personal issues regarding my HIV status: taking my medication, dating, disclosure and avoidance. These are struggles that I have been dealing with for 25 years (since birth). I felt ostracized and abnormal. I was asked to participate in a PSA in which we focused on the misconceptions and stereotypes about women living with HIV and having children. This was a huge step for me but the experience helped me to realize that I do have a voice. Working with MML gives my fellow peers living with HIV and myself the opportunity to spread awareness and advocate for those of us who are struggling to cope with this now-manageable condition. It is important for us to use our voice to break the stigma surrounding HIV and to give hope to the youth of today and older generations. Without funding, these opportunities will cease to exist.” -Summer, MML Participant/ YAP Member
“The YAP program serves as a safe-haven for HIV-infected teens and young adults. But it is so much more than simply a support program. For many of the participants, YAP and all of its members and activities function as a place to be grounded and deal with the diagnosis in a healthy, supportive medium, and ultimately, to develop a family of individuals who can truly relate to one another’s circumstances. The MyMediaLife Program allows YAP to go one step further—to allow us to change the public’s misconceptions about HIV and to help others understand our experiences as HIV+ youth.” -J.W., MML Participant/ YAP Member
Articles written by the MML Participants (Summer and Jawanza):