March 23, 2011

What if information spread more quickly than a virus?

On March 11, the White House hosted an event to mark National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The event was livestreamed from whitehouse.gov and is archived on YouTube:

I have written before about the unique nature of conferences concerning sexually-transmitted infections, but I didn’t expect to hear the same frank talk at a White House event. But why not? Why should a health professional be shy about asking the audience, as Gina Brown did, “When a woman stands up, which way does her vagina point?” The answer may surprise you and if you turn the volume up on your speakers you can hear someone in the audience say, “Oh!” Later in her talk, Dr. Brown urges the audience to Google “female condom” so they can better understand the challenges people face in trying to use it. Yes, a clinician from the National Institutes of Health urged people to Google something because she thought it would be the quickest path to understanding it.

My part of the program focused on how health information has gone social and mobile. I talked about how many people turn to peer-to-peer healthcare and how organizations can’t control the conversation about HIV, but they can contribute to it by making their information easy to share.

As I listened to each speaker I thought: What would happen if all the knowledge and insights being shared here could be shared across all the social networks that women and girls have access to? What if women and girls could use their cell phones to share this information among themselves, since not everyone is ready to have the word “vagina” pop up on their Facebook profile? What if boys and men could gain access to this knowledge, too?

I urge you to listen to the whole event, but if you don’t have time I’ve provided a cheat sheet so you can skip ahead to certain segments. Of particular note: every panel featured at least one woman living with HIV, bringing an e-patient perspective to the discussion. And be sure to catch a few of the Q&A segments because the audience questions were as interesting as the panelists’ remarks.

Opening remarks (go to 0:01:40)
Jeffrey S. Crowley (Office of National AIDS Policy)

What Can YOU Do: Take Action (go to 0:08:00)
Congresswoman Donna Christensen (U.S. Virgin Islands)

Framing the Discussion: Epidemiological Overview (go to 0:22:30)
Gina Brown (Office of AIDS Research, NIH)

Panel 1 Discussion: Taking Action Against HIV/AIDS: Effective Strategies for Prevention (go to 0:44:00)
Moderator: Janet Cleveland (Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, CDC)
Panelists: A. Toni Young (Community Education Group)
Cristina Pena (Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation)
Barbara Joseph (Positive Efforts, Inc.)

Panel 2 Discussion: Getting the Help You Need: Access to Care (go to 1:18:00)
Moderator: Frances Ashe-Goins (Office of Women’s Health, HHS)
Panelists: Mardge Cohen (Rush University)
Heather Hauck (Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene)
Hadiyah Charles (Suffolk University)

Panel 3 Discussion: What Can YOU Do – Take Action?: Social Marketing and Messaging Techniques (go to 1:45:00)
Moderator: Mark Ishaug (AIDS United)
Panelists: Regan Hofmann (POZ Magazine)
Susannah Fox (Pew Research Center)
Cheryl Smith (AIDS Institute, New York State Department of Health)

Closing Remarks (go to 2:25:00)
Tina Tchen (Office of the First Lady)