World AIDS Day gets social

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Ranging from Twitter strikes to virtual quilts, social media is playing a prevalent role in activism for World AIDS Day today.

However, avid followers of celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Ellen DeGeneres and Ryan Seacrest may be suffering from withdrawal symptoms from their daily tweets and updates.

The celebrities are supporting a campaign to raise funds for Alicia Keys' Keep A Child Alive charity, by pledging to remain silent on all social media platforms until the goal of $1 million is reached. The fund provides support to those affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India.

(RED) is also using social media to spread awareness with a number of initiatives to encourage an AIDS-free generation. The (2015) Quilt gets users to create their own unique panel to add to the virtual quilt. With each submission, users are asked to make a pledge to do more for the cause, and as a thank you gift they receive a free Killers song.

Explaining the rationale behind the 21st century quilt, (RED) says: “In 1987, a quilt created by The Names Project Foundation covered the National Mall, in Washington, memorialising those we lost to AIDS.

“Today, we stand at the threshold of another defining milestone in this fight: by 2015, we should be able to provide treatment to the millions more who need it, drastically reduce new infections, and virtually end the transmission of HIV from mothers to their babies.”

(RED) is also mapping all online World AIDS Day activity across various platforms, while also highlighting special events around the world with the aim of making the whole map turn red.

Social action

The United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS, is also leveraging a broad range of social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Flikr and YouTube. Twitter users can also download the UNAIDS twibbon.

Speaking of the importance of social media, UNAIDS says latest data shows roughly half of the world's two billion Internet users have used some form of social media.

“Africa has seen a 2 357% growth in Internet usage between 2000 and 2010, and Asia represents around 42% of the total Internet population worldwide.

“Social media tools hold huge potential to help raise of awareness and mobilise the social action needed to turn the tide on the HIV epidemic. UNAIDS has, therefore, taken the best of the AIDS response - the vibrancy, the dedication, and the passion - online.”

Mapping action

UNAIDS' Crowd Out AIDS initiative also aims to appeal to the youth. A simple online HIV general knowledge quiz is available to be shared via social media. Users can test themselves to see if they fall within the majority of young people who do not have adequate knowledge about the virus, or if they fall into the informed minority.

Another use of social media is the launch of a “crowd mapping” application for youth activists and youth organisations to sign up for collaboration with UNAIDS.

Activists are also encouraged to take the cause offline and host an Open Forum. UNAIDS says: “This is an opportunity to meet with young people in your community, discuss key issues, and report back to UNAIDS to inform its new strategy on HIV and young people that truly responds to the realities of young people.”

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