Fighting HIV with mobile media

Delivering health messages to young people can be a real challenge. A team from the University of Georgia’s New Media Institute recently traveled to Philadelphia to explore how mobile media technology can be used to deliver such messages, specifically information related to the fight against AIDS.

Last month, five NMI students teamed up with students and faculty from four universities, three AIDS organizations and Verizon Communications to develop AIDS Personal Public Service Announcements. The project test a new mobile production model to create messages that can be sent to young people’s cell phones encouraging them to be tested for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

“A whole generation isn’t using their parent’s media,” said Scott Shamp, director of the New Media Institute and professor of telecommunications at UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. “Mobile media has powerful potential for reaching young people with information to help them stay healthy and protect others.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over a quarter of a million people in the United States are living with HIV and don’t know it. These unknowing HIV-infected persons cannot take advantage of effective new therapies to extend both the quality and length of their lives. These individuals are also at greater risk of spreading the virus. Despite the benefits of being tested, young people are still reluctant to do so.

The AIDS Personal Public Service Announcement Project pioneers the use of new mobile media technology to address the challenge of AIDS education. The project demonstrates a fast and cost-effective way to produce highly-targeted messages about health care issues that are optimized for the communication medium young people use the most-the cell phone.

Three student teams from the University of Georgia, University of South Carolina and Temple University had one day to collaborate with professional producers to create one minute videos, or Personal Public Service Announcements, encouraging HIV testing. The student teams, armed with backpack-sized mobile production studios, then set out at 9 a.m. to collect audio and video footage around the city of Philadelphia.

Throughout the day, the teams used Verizon’s wireless network to push their raw footage to remote producers. All of the Personal Public Service Announcements premiered at 8 p.m. that same day and were available for immediate downloading to cell phones.

“As a leading technology company, Verizon is committed to partnering with institutions of higher learning as we explore ways to use our technology in a cutting-edge way,” stated Michelle Robinson, Verizon’s senior vice president for the Southern region. “We are thrilled to partner with Georgia’s flagship university and specifically UGA’s New Media Institute on this important project.”

Contributors to the AIDS Personal Public Service Announcement Project also participated in a panel discussion at the International Digital Media and Arts Association Conference held in Philadelphia.