How Social Media Is Stamping Out the Stigma of HIV

Social media may not be the traditional route for HIV prevention and advocacy, but it’s become one of the most important ones.

Reaching young people on online platforms allows organizations to expand their reach and capabilities in working with these populations. Also, it gives young people a way to share their voices and stories directly, with people like Muluba Habanyama, a member of our Youth Advisory Board and young person living with HIV, empowering themselves through sharing their stories.



The kind of personal empowerment that young people like Muluba have found through online advocacy is what inspires us to share strategies for using social media as an engagement tool. In July, we were invited to contribute to the ViiV Healthcare Positive Action for Youth Annual Meeting, which included a training led by YTH’s Strategic Partnerships and Innovation Lead Laiah Idelson, which was centered around this topic of using social media for connecting with young people living with HIV.

Additionally, we recently received the Stamping out the Stigma Award from ViiV, which was given to organizations who are using technology to increase access to stigma-free HIV healthcare. Laiah also accepted this award on behalf of the organization at the International AIDS Conference in July.


To highlight key insights from our HIV prevention and social media work, Laiah offers tips for young engagement, insights from the presentation, as well as perspective on what future HIV prevention initiatives YTH has in store.


YTH was recently recognized as a changemaker by ViiV Healthcare, who awarded us with a Positive Action Challenges grant at the International AIDS Conference. How did this opportunity come about?

LAIAH: This challenge asked participants to conceive of an idea that would “stamp out stigma” from the HIV care system. YTH has long wanted to support healthcare providers in their efforts to best support trans-spectrum youth. We felt this challenge was a perfect opportunity as we hear from youth that, even in the Bay Area, stigma in the HIV care settings exists.


What was it like to accept the award on the organization’s behalf?

LAIAH: It was a huge honor to accept this award on behalf of YTH. The award was given on the main stage during a plenary, at the International AIDS Conference. This was a great opportunity for YTH to show our leadership in the field of HIV.


What will the grant money be used for?

LAIAH: With the support of Viiv, YTH will develop a digital social franchise model to educate HIV providers on trans-spectrum friendly HIV care. We will also work with healthcare providers directly, to develop a training on trans-spectrum care. After providers complete the training, they will be branded online, and in their offices, as a”trans friendly provider.” YTH will then direct trans-youth to these facilities, through on-and offline marketing. We aim to recruit and retain more trans-spectrum youth in HIV care, and increase provider capacity in caring for trans-spectrum youth.

Why is social media an important tool for activists and healthcare providers alike to use when advocating for youth living with HIV?

LAIAH: Social media is an important tool for reaching youth living with HIV because it allows both healthcare providers and activists to reach young people where they are, which is online and on social media. Social media allows for the opportunity for personalized outreach, and for that outreach and information gathering to be private and confidential.

What are some examples of campaigns that show real change both online and off?

LAIAH: In addition to U=U, another effective program is Me Him Us. This campaign specifically focuses on black African gay men in the UK and is designed by members of the community (who I was fortunate enough to meet during the International AIDS Conference). These voices are often excluded from HIV prevention and care conversations and this campaign brings them into the fold.

Additionally, I would be remiss to not mention YTH’s own programs, specifically they2ze, which recently incorporated PrEP reminders into this platform. This addition stems from community input as well. .


What’s a tip for organizations to simply and effectively use social media to engage youth in their programming?

LAIAH: I’m a big advocate in co-designing your social media strategy and campaigns with your target audience. What do your youth want to see, how do they want to be spoken to, and what topics do they want to see on their social media platforms? Organizations serving youth living with or preventing HIV are already speaking with youth every day when providing care, so add five minutes to your conversations to just touch base on social media. This conversation can be a fun way to get to know your youth more and have them get excited to keep speaking with you.



As we look to the future, it’s important to realize that the health and technology is there to both treat and prevent HIV, as it’s often the stigma that stops people from seeking this kind of healthcare. Making these innovations accessible and shame-free should be every organization’s number one priority, if we want to see real change come about in this arena. Start stamping out the stigma with us, by designing your HIV prevention innovations by and for young people, online and off.

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