The Face of Hope Counteracts the 'Buy a Life' Death Sentence Marketing Campaign
December 1, 2010 World Aids Day was a groundbreaking day for Chicago Public Schools, Walgreens, and Truestar Magazines Expressions HIV/AIDS Campaign at the University of Illinois at Chicago's forum. 1500 CPS students arrived to hear from clinicians, state and health representatives, and those infected with the HIV virus. I myself, David D. Robertson stood in front of these amazing students bearing my deepest secrets about my diagnosis to these youth. At 11:35 am I went on stage telling them about the day I was diagnosed (June 19th 2007 @ 12:34pm). At that time I remember telling these youth that HIV/AIDS was not and is not a death sentence! Sharing the story of when my mother had asked me, "David, do you want to live or do you want to die?" I remembered saying with tears in my eyes "Momma I want to live!" And the reason why I was in front of them was because I knew at that moment that I was not given a death sentence but a chance to help educate those who were sexually at risk . My ending message to those 1500 youth was not death rather, "GET TESTED KNOW YOUR STATUS" , because there is HOPE! I gave them all my "Call Me" number to Call Me if they had any questions about HIV/AIDS and or STI's and they did...
This pilot program launched by The University of Chicago's Comer Hospital called; "Call Me" was created to provide peer support that educates and empowers young adults in the South Chicagoland and NW Indiana areas to acquire ACCURATE information about sexual wellness and testing for HIV and sexually transmitted infections. That day I received myriads of texts messages and phone calls concerning was HIV/AIDS a death sentence. A few calls I received that evening asking me, "Why did Kim Kardashian, Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Hudson, Lady GaGa and Alicia Keys etc then take pictures in a coffin on World Aids Day and say they were digitally dying?" The young lady said, "All of my friends now really believe AIDS is a death sentence." Stunned and numbed I could not form a sentence. I reassured her that there are medications to help sustain those who have been infected by the virus.
This media campaign is an atomic bomb to those in the prevention and education sectors of HIV who are on the ground level everyday not sacrificing our lives, but living selflessly to disseminate pertinent HIV information to high school and college students worldwide. These celebrities put a 1 million price tag on there digital dying and moreover made HIV a fashionable thing. What about 1 million people getting tested, what about 1 free song download to every person who got tested? Why so reactive and not proactive? As a spokesperson, advocate, activist,and person living with HIV and brother of a person who lives with AIDS, I'd like to have these questions answered specifically by those celebrities who laid in those coffins in order to beautify such a nasty disease more over to ask them how many deaths can one really have i.e. digital? Especially when talking about an infectious disease that the CDC reports that every 9 ½ minutes a person is infected with HIV.
Moreover, I'd like to know how the U.S Government (PEPFAR) feels about this since they have extended 7 billion dollars to the prevention and research for HIV/AIDS. This marketing stint has done the polar opposite of prevention. It has given many youth and adolescents the fear factor, some the understanding that you can buy back your life (making HIV seem invincible) and a myriad of other ram shackle thoughts. As a young adult, college student, person living HIV and who lives under the poverty level to help others not go through what my family has gone through because of HIV, I'd like to know how this marketing stint can be reversed to show that there is HOPE if you are infected. PLEASE HELP me, help our youth.
(Please review my youtube also) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4yMt_Db0-s
Yours in the struggle,
David D. Robertson
The Face of H.O.P.E (Helping Other People Evolve)