"How do you know what you know?"
submitted by Rachel on Monday, June 14, 2004 -
Article originally published in HIV Prevention Plus by Canadian HIV/AIDS Information Centre
An exciting national initiative to re-invigorate gay men's HIV prevention in Canada is underway. A community-based, national social marketing campaign, funded by Health Canada, is being led by AIDS Vancouver's gay men's health program, Gayway. The national project includes collaboration with many community service organizations (the AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia, Action Sero Zero, AIDS Community Care Montreal, AIDS Committee of Toronto, Two Spirited People of the First Nations, Nine Circles Community Health Centre, HIV Edmonton, Asian Society for the Intervention of AIDS, Canadian AIDS Society and the Community Based Research Centre).
According to data collected by Health Canada and the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), HIV infection rates among gay men have begun to rise in certain areas of Canada, including Vancouver and Toronto. In fact, BCCDC data from 2002 indicates that there was a 55% increase in infection rates in men who have sex with men (MSM) since 2000. Studies also show a significant increase in the percentage of young gay men reporting unprotected anal intercourse. Another demonstrated aspect of HIV infection risk is evident in studies that showed the perceptual discrepancies between not disclosing their own HIV status and expecting partners to disclose status. Many men expect partners to disclose, while they themselves don't know their sero-status, often because they haven't been tested.
Obviously, there is a need to stimulate dialogue and re-invigorate HIV educational initiatives that acknowledge and respect the strategies gay men have been using to reduce HIV risk. Gay men need prevention supports to assist them in recognizing the risks inherent in the shifting sexual safety norms of their community. And strategies need to be used to present basic HIV information, familiar to earlier generations of gay men, which a younger generation may not have received.
Part of this need will be addressed by a social marketing campaign, called "Assumptions", a campaign developed in San Francisco in 2000. The San Francisco campaign was based on findings that many gay men engaging in anal intercourse without condoms do so based on faulty assumptions that they and their sex partners are of the same HIV status, thus underestimating the risk of engaging in unprotected anal intercourse.
The San Francisco campaign's concept about assumption errors was well received by focus group participants from across the country, and based on their feedback, the campaign has been adapted and expanded to include Canadian cultural context. The campaign will be the first of two campaigns to be launched by the AIDS Vancouver partnership; the second will be developed based on the knowledge gained through Assumptions.
Using "How do you know what you know?" as a tagline, the Assumptions campaign brings the difficult and complex issues of sexual assumptions and silence into the open, and asks men to reconsider the assumptions behind their choices about their health and the health of their sex partners. The expectation is that the Assumptions campaign will be an effective tool for stimulating gay men's HIV prevention both on the local and national level.
For more information about the Assumptions campaign, please contact Phillip Banks, at AIDS Vancouver, 604.682-3900.
This campaign was originally created for an HIV/AIDS organization in San Francisco by social marketing designers Andy Williams and Raul Cabra for San Francisco Social Marketing firm Cabra Diseno.