Although black people make up less than 5% of Ontario's population, they account for 13% of those living with HIV/AIDS
Unless you've been walking around with your eyes closed, you've probably noticed a new province-wide ad campaign targeting black Ontarians — you just may not have known it had anything to do with AIDS.
The ads are hard to miss, but their message may be.
Ads on bus shelters and at subway stops show a young black woman, arms folded across her chest, under the words "Self-Respect." In the suburbs, billboards along major thoroughfares endorse "Family" and picture a different young black woman, this time flanked by her parents.
"There's never been a campaign like this in Canada," says Winston Husbands, co-director of the African and Caribbean Council on HIV/AIDS in Ontario (ACCHO), the group behind the campaign.
"Campaigns in the past never really spoke to people from Africa and the Caribbean."
Just over a year old, the group is funded by the AIDS bureau of the Ministry of Health. Its massive social marketing campaign includes a website, print ads and spots on television and radio, all the way from Windsor to Thunder Bay, at a preliminary cost of $450,000.
Although the final price tag has yet to be calculated, Husbands says it will not exceed $1 million.
There's a sound epidemiological rationale for focusing on young black women. Although black people make up less than 5 per cent of Ontario's population, they account for 13 per cent of those living with HIV/AIDS. That's 3,000 out of 25,000 people.
Nationally, the annual rate of new infections among blacks nearly doubled between 1998 and 2005 (from 6.4 per cent of positive tests to 12.3 per cent).
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