Social Influencers Take on HIV and AIDS on World AIDS Day

A new social-hashtag campaign calls on everyone to demand that governments find a way to provide the resources to allow treatment for all those infected with AIDS.

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By Cynthia Johnson

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With more being written about the power of an emerging army of influencers that can move hundreds, thousands, and even millions of people to buy something, see things differently, or take action, the strategy for numerous organizations trying to make global changes related to social problems are now turning to these influencers for help. In fact, hashtags for activism are proving to make a difference across the globe in many issues.

The latest in these social-hashtag campaigns is targeting HIV and AIDS, a continuing global epidemic that is still hitting developing countries hard and wiping out millions of people, including children. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 37 million people are currently HIV positive, but only 15 million are currently receiving treatment. There are new guidelines being put into place to increase the number qualified for treatment, which is the only viable solution to stop new infections and eventually halt the disease altogether.

December 1 was World AIDS Day, and a new social-hashtag campaign was launched, #TreatmentForAll, which calls on everyone around the world to demand that governments find a way to provide the resources to allow treatment for all those infected and offer the resources to stop the factors that are contributing to the spread of HIV and AIDS-related illnesses.

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The new social-media campaign features Emmy Award-winning talk show host Ricki Lake as well as many online social influencers from The Influential Network, including Wesley Stromberg of the band Emblem 3 and Youth Ambassador for the #ForgiveForPeace campaign that was launched for the UN International Day of Peace; Megan Nicole, a musical artist with more than 3.2 million subscribers on YouTube; Melvin Gregg, a top-100 Vine personality who counts other celebrities as fans, and Sammy Wilkinson, who is a social media star and part of the Magcon Tour. Together, this group has amassed more than 40 million followers that will hear about this new social campaign and about how they can help stop the spread of HIV and AIDS.

The inspiration for the social-media campaign came from the recent WHO HIV/AIDS recommendations that stated that "patients should be put on an antiretroviral therapy of three drugs immediately after diagnosis" and "everyone at risk of becoming infected should be offered protective doses of similar drugs." This is viewed as one of the best solutions for shutting down the disease. While resources and financial assistance have been procured from numerous countries, including the United States and President Obama's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), there is significantly more that needs to be done to make treatment equally accessible to those in need.

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The campaign is launched this week with the premiere of a Facebook documentary, at a special screening in New York City that includes these stars who are also stars of the documentary. The film shows them traveling to Malawi to talk to those affected by HIV/AIDS in order to put a face to the disease and provide the human reasons why we need to fight this devastating disease. The documentary provides insights into what those affected by HIV/AIDS lives are like and the struggles they face without the proper treatment. Also featured are interviews with U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, and President Bill Clinton.

Anyone on social media will be able to access the documentary, through the UN Assistant Secretary-General Ray Chambers' Facebook page. Like the stars of the documentary, you will also be able to spread the word by retweeting and sharing the #TreatmentForAll campaign to your followers.

As Clinton said in the documentary, "If you want to save lives and stop an epidemic that has claimed the lives of tens of millions of people, treatment is the best prevention. Now we're on the verge, for the first time ever… of being able to have one pill to treat people with HIV and AIDS that costs less than $100. It's never happened before. Once this does happen, the money that has already been appropriated will go exponentially further."

Join us today, in sharing this social campaign for HIV/AIDS treatment for all. Together, we can stop this disease for good.

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Cynthia Johnson

Co-founder and CEO of Bell + Ivy, marketer, speaker and author

Cynthia Johnson is co-founder and CEO of Bell + Ivy. She is a marketer, speaker and author.

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