By Greater Than AIDS
When Masonia was diagnosed with HIV, her childhood best friend, Crystal, was one of the first people she told.
“I wanted her to know she could talk to me about anything, and I would not judge her,” says Crystal recalling that day.
Since that day, Crystal has been a constant source of support for Masonia, who believes that having someone like Crystal in her corner – offering encouragement, love, and support – has helped save her life.
Whether it’s the one you are born into or the one you create, family matters. Masonia and Crystal’s story powerfully illustrates how the support of loved ones can make a big difference in health outcomes, both physical and mental.
In that spirit of family, Greater Than AIDS has launched We Are Family – a new campaign that highlights the importance of social support for people living with HIV. Produced in partnership with the Georgia Department of Public Health, the campaign features profiles of a diverse group of individuals living with HIV and the people who support them. The Fulton County Department of Health & Wellness is engaging in an extensive media campaign to extend the reach of We Are Family in the heavily affected Atlanta area, including DeKalb County.
This campaign comes at a critical time. The National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020 specifically encourages a focus on areas with the highest burden of disease, and Georgia has the fifth-highest number of HIV/AIDS diagnoses in the country.
According to a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey of residents in Georgia, nearly half (46 percent) of the respondents personally know someone living with HIV, or who has died of the disease. For those who have been most affected by the disease, the issue hits close to home. Among Black Georgians, more than one in four (28 percent) report having a family member affected by HIV.
Despite how prevalent HIV is, the survey indicates that those living with the virus hardly ever talk about it, even with those closest to them. According to Kaiser, the large majority of Georgians say the subject of HIV rarely comes up with friends, family, or even intimate partners.
We Are Family is designed to counter this silence with a broad multiplatform campaign that engages family members, friends, and allies of people living with HIV, as well as the broader community, to better understand the powerful role every person plays in ending HIV/AIDS. A statewide outdoor, transit, radio, TV, and digital media campaign promotes local resources to support individuals living with HIV and their loved ones.
Fear of judgement can delay a person from seeking life-saving treatment or opening up about their status. Conversely, a person living with HIV who has support from their family and friends are more likely to get the care they need and keep up with treatment, which both improves health and helps prevent the spread of the disease.
“You can go to the doctor, they’ll give you the medication and the care. You can go to a mental health provider, they’ll work you through the issues. You have to find somebody to take care of your spirit. You have to find a strong support system,” says Greater Than AIDS Ambassador, Rev. William Francis, who is featured in the campaign.