COMMUNICATIONS NEWS: Aids charity campaign targets heterosexuals

KIRSTEN DOWNER

Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) wants to educate the public with the message that the balance of HIV infection is swinging towards the heterosexual community, especially the black African community in the UK.

But the charity's communications strategy is complicated by the fact that it does not want to stigmatise sufferers or black African communities.

THT's executive director of marketing Joanna Van Driel said: "We want to be effective without being too frightening. The original tombstone ads were great for raising awareness of HIV and Aids but they made people frightened of it. And we don't want to further stigmatise an already stigmatised group often associated with asylum seeking, but generally legitimately living in the UK."

For this reason the charity decided not to use national press or mass media to raise awareness of the disease among the black African community, which accounts for nearly a quarter of all people in Britain with HIV.

Instead, from the beginning of July, it will team up with a number of black minority ethnic partner agencies including Blackliners, HIV/Aids Association of Zambia and the Black Health Agency in Manchester to encourage HIV testing among the African community. The Department of Health's poster and press campaign will be deliberately low-key, targeting minicab offices, church halls and the black press.

Van Driel said that the public had become complacent about HIV and Aids even though the charity predicts that over the next five years the number of people living with HIV will increase by more than 50 per cent. "Twenty years ago the disease was in the headlines all the time and people such as Freddie Mercury and Rock Hudson were dying from it, but now people think that the UK epidemic is over,

said Van Driel.

The charity marks 20 years since the death of Terrence Higgins this July. A year-long series of lobbying and fundraising events will start next month. And last week the charity launched a drive to recruit more volunteers from gay and black African groups, the two communities most affected by the disease.

THT has taken over nine other Aids charities since 1982.

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