New Online Initiative Promotes Safer Sex, HIV Testing Among Canadian Youth
A new online initiative called One Life is targeting sexually active Canadians 18 to 30 years old and urging them to practice safer sex and undergo HIV testing, the Toronto Star reports. Launched Monday, the campaign, which includes the musical group U2 and singer Mary J. Blige, is a collaboration between Bristol-Myers Squibb Canada and Universal Music Canada. It also includes HIV/AIDS service organizations, medical clinics, testing facilities and physicians.
According to the Star, One Life aims to spread its message through an online video set to U2's song "One," recorded with Blige and made available by the artists at no cost. The companies also are pledging a $1 corporate donation to HIV/AIDS prevention groups every time a viewer forwards the video. In addition, the Web site includes a search tool to help viewers find local testing facilities and links to sexual health and HIV information.
Murray Jose, executive director of the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation and a spokesperson for One Life, said he is concerned the evolution of antiretroviral drugs has led some youth to believe HIV/AIDS is curable and therefore less of a threat. Jose added that testing is critical because one in three people living with HIV is not aware of his or her status. In addition, Jose said that there is "a huge need" to continue to repeat messages about the importance of safer sex and HIV testing to teenagers and that the online initiative is a way to get their attention and provide them with more information. Recent health statistics have shown that although the overall rate of newly reported HIV cases has declined in Toronto, cases have been increasing among people ages 20 to 24.
Alex McKay, research coordinator of the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada, said the help of celebrities is "laudable" and long overdue. McKay added that global research has shown that entertainers and well-known personalities highly regarded by youths have "a tremendous influence" on sexual health promotion and HIV prevention. However, McKay added that it is unfortunate the message is limited to HIV because youth who have unprotected sex also are at risk of contracting other sexually transmitted infections (Gordon, Toronto Star, 8/18).