National Aids Trust combats decades of fear by changing tack

Charity wants to take more positive approach to educating people about the disease.

Previous campaigns from the National Aids Trust have focused on emergency action and highlighted the feeling of fear to drive awareness. However, the aim of this year's activity is to change how people think about HIV and Aids in order to show support for those living with the diseases.

The "Rock the ribbon" film by St Luke's is set to Erasure’s A Little Respect and sees choreographer Sherrie Silver joyfully dancing with a red ribbon, the global symbol of HIV awareness, to drive home this new positive message. Silver choreographed Childish Gambino’s viral hit This is America.

HIV has become a "forgotten issue" in the UK, but there is still a lot of stigma surrounding it, according to St Luke's managing director Ed Palmer. 

"Unlike other campaigns tackling the issue, we didn’t want to be scaremongering and we didn’t want to use fear," he said. "We wanted to make people feel proud to support HIV."

Perhaps the most famous Aids education campaign is the government's "Don't die of ignorance" work in 1986. 

"[That campaign] was focused on making sure that people were aware of their risk and took action to protect themselves. It was really effective in terms of raising awareness of HIV and Aids, but it certainly has had a long tail in terms of fear and stigma," Deborah Gold, chief executive of the National Aids Trust, said. "We wanted a really simple and positive message partly to combat that long tail."

The latest film was supported by an outdoor campaign at London’s biggest full-motion retail screen in Westfield London. It encouraged the public to dance to make the ribbons move on screen to show support for those living with HIV and Aids. The concept won the top charity prize at this year's Ocean Outdoor annual digital competition, in partnership with Campaign.

The National Aids Trust has changed its marketing message each year, but now it plans to build on this year's focus and continue the current campaign over the coming years.

Gold explained: "We'll be thinking about where there are other opportunities in the year to take this kind of message and apply it so that we have something consistent and snowballing. It's been one of our most successful campaigns for World Aids Day in a number of years, so we feel really positive about using it and trying to grow it."

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