The Fulton County Department of Health & Wellness and the DeKalb County Board of Health today launched the We Are Family campaign in Atlanta to reinforce the critical role loved ones play in the health and well-being of people living with HIV.
“We Are Family drives at the core of how Atlanta should respond to HIV…with love and action,” says Leisha McKinley-Beach who leads HIV prevention in Fulton County. “If we break the silence and act as a community, our families will be healthier.”
Anchored by a series of documentary-style short videos, We Are Family profiles Georgians, many from the Atlanta area, affected by HIV, including a grandmother and her grown son, a college student and his parents, a pastor and his congregation, a recovering addict and his mother, a transgender woman and her sister, and childhood best friends. Their stories provide a powerful illustration of the difference it can make for people with HIV to be open with and have the support of loved ones. Presented in the wider Atlanta area as part of Atlanta Greater Than AIDS (Atlanta>AIDS), We Are Family was produced by Greater Than AIDS and the Georgia Department of Public Health. The Fulton County Department of Health & Wellness is extending the reach of the campaign in the heavily-affected Atlanta area, including DeKalb County, with an extensive media campaign, including outdoor, transit, radio, TV and digital messages, and corresponding community materials.
Fulton and DeKalb counties are among the top counties nationally in rates of new HIV diagnoses. As is the case nationally, Black residents have been disproportionately affected, accounting for more than two thirds (68%) of Atlantans living with an HIV diagnosis as of 2012.
Whether it’s the one you are born into or the one you create, family matters.
People with HIV who have strong support networks are more likely to get and stay in care, which both improves health outcomes and reduces the spread of the disease. Conversely, fear of judgement and rejection can delay a person from seeking lifesaving treatment or even knowing their status. With ongoing treatment, people with HIV can live a normal life span and have children without HIV. Antiretrovirals – the medications used to treat HIV – also significantly lowers the chance of passing the virus to others.
New Survey Reveals HIV Hits Close to Home for Many Georgians
According to a new statewide survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation that is being released today in conjunction with the campaign, nearly half (46%) of Georgians say they personally know someone living with, or who has died of, HIV/AIDS. More than one in four (28%) Black residents report having a family member affected by the disease.
“HIV has touched many lives, yet it’s not talked about even with those closest to us,” says Tina Hoff, Senior Vice President and Director of Health Communication and Media Partnerships at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which directs Greater Than AIDS. “Too many are getting HIV, and even dying, because of the stigma and silence.”
Despite these connections, the Kaiser survey reveals HIV today “rarely,” if at all, comes up in conversations with friends, family or even intimate partners.