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Public health faculty uses research-based strategy for HIV campaign development

In an effort to raise awareness about free HIV testing and dispel stigma sometimes associated with HIV, a new multi-media campaign encourages members of the African American community to take control of their health.

“If you know your HIV status, you can protect yourself and others,” said Ryan Combs, Ph.D., M.A., assistant professor, University of Louisville School of Public Health & Information Sciences and Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky scholar. “Everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should consider getting tested for HIV at least once. If you are HIV positive, there are treatments that can help you live a long and healthy life.”

Combs, along with other public health faculty and students, community members, and health care and public health professionals, developed the ‘We’re in Control Now’ campaign utilizing community-based participatory research. Residents are invited to join the conversation on social media using #CTRLNow.

The messages, communicated through radio ads, posters in West Louisville bus shelters and social media encourages members of the African American community to seek out free HIV testing through the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, 502-574-5600, or Volunteers of America, 502-635-4505.

“People living with HIV are valued members of the community. In some ways, HIV stigma can be worse than the disease itself,” Combs said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 1 in 20 African American men will be affected by HIV compared to 1 in 132 White men, and an estimated 1 in 48 African American women will experience HIV compared to 1 in 880 White women.

HIV is one of several topics Combs and his research team have explored since 2017 as part of the health literacy research project funded through the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence. Other topics include depression and childhood asthma. For more information, visit www.communityresearchlouisville.com.

The HIV campaign continues through Feb. 7, National African American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. It also coincides with various events throughout Louisville, including the HIV Monologues on Feb. 9 at Hotel Louisville. The event is an outgrowth of aUofL Cooperative Consortium for Transdisciplinary Social Justice Research initiative that worked with actors and a group of older HIV positive African Americans to develop monologues focusing on the experiences of the HIV positive.

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