by Rebecca Bonnar

‘Awareness day fatigue’ is real. As industry and NGOs compete for cut-through the conversation, journalists would very much agree with the diagnosis—with 32 ‘official’ days in October alone, they struggle to view these as news with not even enough days in a month to cover them.

World AIDS Day has the benefit of having a legacy of action as well as ongoing community need as it comes into its 30th year – still, how can we avoid cause apathy and ensure we tell the important stories that build advocacy without getting lost for purpose and for substance? Not just in the formal organisational sense but the sort of individual, personal investment necessary to eliminate stigma, improve quality of life, and call for new treatment, even cure?

The red thread of stigma is a commonality amongst the majority of groups joining today’s World AIDS Day conversation, a sentiment shared by those in the field of Hepatitis. With tie of co-infection between the two diseases, it is carrying a lot of weight that groups in both fields are identifying stigma as a prominent hurdle in the way of moving towards elimination showing the strength of voices together rather than new and shiny campaigns.

One organisation we continue to admire for its excellence in HIV advocacy and storytelling is amfAR. Their current ‘Make It Matter’ narrative suggests a need to go beyond a single day approach – the red ribbon should be a red thread in our story, and worn every day. The beauty of this message is in the simplicity of the story they create, providing five compelling reasons why this matters more than ever.

Just this morning, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) reflected on the impact of global partnerships between themselves, PEPFAR and implementing partners, detailing the improvement to millions of lives over the last 30 years. The strategy launched in September this year is a key focus of their narrative on World AIDS Day, reaffirming the drive towards achieving epidemic control, providing services to vulnerable people especially children and accelerating progress in access.

It is one thing to be inspired by organisations we admire but how can we truly learn from them and pull them through into implementation? Here are our top 5 tips to produce the most meaningful action out of awareness days:

  1. Buddy up – many voices together are stronger on a day than new one-off campaigns
  2. Create a thread and a narrative that goes beyond the day
  3. Tailor your content to your audience
  4. Join the conversation – 60% of content can be pre-planned delivering key messages, 30% should be anticipated yet topical. Save 10% for truly reactive posts to enhance the existing conversation without dominating it
  5. Move from awareness to action – sparking this with a tangible (yet easy) ask of your audience on the day itself

A sociological theory called narcotising dysfunction argues that the more the mass media inundates people on a particular issue, the less they feel inclined to act upon it. So on this World AIDS Day, we’ll be keeping our eyes on the groups focusing on the ‘do’ more than the ‘say’. In future, we’d love to see a shift away from awareness days to ‘action days’. After all, HIV has one of the greatest legacies of action for change.

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