Tuesday, April 8, 2008

WE COMMUNITY – ACCHO: Keeping Busy Keeping it Alive

If you’re one of the many fans who tune in on Sunday nights to Global TV’s hit show da Kink in my Hair, you would have seen the African and Caribbean Council on HIV/AIDS in Ontario’s (ACCHO) thought-provoking Keep It Alive series of commercials. Its powerful message is hard to miss.

As the first television show with an all-black cast featured on a private national network in Canada, advertising during da Kink in my Hair is a natural fit for ACCHO. Its acclaimed Keep It Alive commercials feature community members promoting HIV/AIDS prevention among Black Canadians and African and Caribbean communities in Canada.

The campaign encourages Black, African and Caribbean adults and youth to know their HIV status by getting tested, practice safer sex, encourage their loved ones to do the same and to remember that people who are living with AIDS and HIV deserve support.

The Keep It Alive campaign shows people how to start a conversation with a loved one about HIV/AIDS. It’s a conversation that could save lives. “We’re also trying to create the kind of environment that supports HIV prevention, and the care, treatment and support for people already infected,” said Winston Husbands, co-chair of ACCHO. “This is part of an effort to ensure healthy communities.”

“The idea behind the TV campaign was to bring a more tangible and personal approach to the key messages of prevention, testing and stigma,” said Howard Chang, founder and president of Top Drawer Creative, the Toronto-based ad agency that worked with ACCHO to develop the campaign. “We hope that people will see in these ads their own stories and challenges, and with that begin their own conversations about HIV and AIDS.”

ACCHO plans to air the popular ads again this spring and is just one of many ways ACCHO keeps busy growing its Keep It Alive campaign. ACCHO is also a repeat supporter of Sun TV’s broadcast of the NAACP awards through broadcast sponsorship and the airing of the Keep it Alive commercials.

To extend its reach beyond the tube, ACCHO Street Teams were developed to give the third phase of the Keep it Alive campaign a more grassroots social marketing focus. The Street Teams work with local AIDS service organizations in Toronto and Ottawa to get the prevention message out to youth in a language they can relate to.

The amateur teams recruit from youth affiliated with local dance or social groups. Participants are trained in HIV/AIDS education, the effects of stigma and the social responsibility African and Caribbean Canadians have in combating HIV/AIDS in their communities.

To effectively reach their individual communities, the teams develop theatrical performances with unique storylines that incorporate their cultural nuances. Through live performances, the teams address the core issues of HIV/AIDS in the community and get the word out about prevention.

If you want to discuss HIV/AIDS with a friend or family member but are unsure how, the new bilingual ACCHO website is a great place to get the tools necessary to approach this sensitive issue. So, do your part to Keep It Alive, visit www.accho.ca and get the message out about HIV/AIDS.

For more information about ACCHO, contact spokespersons Winston Husbands and Wangari Tharao at www.accho.ca.

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