New data show continuing increases in the number of AIDS cases
among women, youth and racial and ethnic groups in the United States.
To combat this trend, NIDA is developing awareness initiatives
to reach these populations, youth in particular, to increase their
awareness of the relationship between drug abuse, risky sexual
behavior and HIV transmission. A new NIDA public service announcement
(PSA) does just that by highlighting how drug use can impair a
young person's ability to make responsible decisions about sex
and thereby lead to HIV infection.
"use ur brain. keep ur body healthy. b drug free."
Prepared in advance of World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, NIDA developed
a PSA for television that capitalizes on teens' growing use of
cell phones and text messaging as a means to communicate. The PSA
opens with a young girl strolling down a city sidewalk, stopping
to respond to a message on her cell phone. The exchange follows:
"u hear bout kim?"
"what bout kim?"
"she has HIV!"
"4 real? how?"
she got HIGH
n now has HIV!"
Filming of NIDA's new PSA campaign on
the connection between HIV
and drug abuse.
As the two friends exchange text messages, the visual is now a
sequence of party scenes, a flashback montage suggestive of drug-taking
that leads to sexual involvement. The sequence carries the message
that drugs impair judgment and can result in risky sexual behavior
and subsequent HIV infection.
It definitely struck that chord with one of the actresses, a student
named Zaibaa from Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington,
D.C., who commented: "What I see is one minute of fun can lead
to a lifetime of misery.No one can say 'it's not gonna happen to
Zaibaa is one of several students from Duke Ellington who were
asked to participate in the making of the PSA, serving as actors,
production assistants and reviewers. She and Rebecca ("Becca"),
both seniors studying theater arts, were chosen from about a dozen
hopefuls to portray the two text-messaging girlfriends who share
the news about "kim."
"she got HIGH, got STUPID, and now she has HIV."
Asked whether she felt the spot would resonate with her peers,
Becca said, "Yes, because it is more dramatic and powerful than
I thought it would be, and also more real than most other ads made
for teens.Usually my friends and I mock ads for the stereotypes
they use, especially about what teens do." Becca happens to be
a Katrina evacuee who is living with her aunt in order to attend
school in D.C. Back in her hometown of Metairie, La., her home
and school — also a performing arts school — were destroyed.
She is upbeat and enthusiastic about being a part of the NIDA PSA.
The NIDA team that developed the PSA involved kids from the start
to ensure the relevance of messages directed to them. They asked
teen experts to review concepts before integrating them in the
production of the PSA. The process involved several rounds of focus
groups held in Miami, Chicago and Baltimore; mall intercepts, where
local teens were stopped and surveyed on how particular nuances
were being delivered and an interview forum, which allowed more
fine-tuning based on input from students in the D.C. area.
The production team tapped into the Duke Ellington School to find
local talent also representative of populations where HIV infection
is on the rise. Said Caleb Cooks, the PSA producer, "For me, doing
this spot has raised my personal awareness and my feeling of connectedness
to the target audience.We really want to take an offensive position
with HIV awareness and push this agenda forward — to keep
the momentum going." Zaibaa said she, too, enjoyed her involvement
in broadcasting the message and being part of something bigger
than herself. "I really liked working on this ad because I'm doing
something more than just trying to better myself, I'm also part
of the cause, the fight, and this is especially important to me,
living here in D.C."
Becca and Zaibaa's classmates at Duke Ellington weighed in on
the PSA following a screening at the school on World AIDS Day.
NIDA also participated in an assembly about drug abuse and HIV
infection. On Nov. 29, NIDA invited all those who participated
in developing the PSA to attend the press briefing launching the
campaign. In addition, the Washington, D.C., Metro system has agreed
to display NIDA's HIV ads as a public service in Metro stations
and on buses for the month of December.