"Change My Story" Campaign Unveils New Ads For At-Risk Communities

July 9, 2012

AIDS Foundation of Chicago “Change My Story” Campaign Debuts Smartphone-Driven Ads to Connect People to HIV Prevention and Care Services

Health Promotion Initiative Uses Website, Video Testimonials, Mobile Messaging to Encourage African American Gay and Bisexual Men and Young Women to Get Tested, Get Care

CHICAGO – To mark National HIV Testing Day, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) debuted a series of smartphone-driven bus shelter ads on the South and West Sides of Chicago to help African Americans connect to HIV testing and care services.

The larger-than-life ads, featuring community ambassadors, are part of the agency’s community-level educational campaign, known as Change My Story, designed to inspire communities of color to connect to life-extending health care services. A 2010 report from the Pew Research Center on technology trends indicated African-Americans boast the highest rates of any demographic group when it comes to interacting with the community via text message and other non-traditional platforms.

As a result, Change My Story includes, public service announcements, text messages, social media, the health promotion portal, and bus shelter ads in 14 communities that are hard-hit by HIV/AIDS: South Shore, Auburn Gresham, Chatham, Washington Park, Greater Grand Crossing, West Englewood, East Garfield Park, North Lawndale, Englewood, Douglas, Grand Boulevard, Austin, Humboldt Park and the Near West Side.

The ads hit the streets on National HIV Testing Day (June 27) and will remain in place through September 17.


Change My Story is about empowering people to take control of their life and health, with respect to HIV/AIDS and all life-changing illnesses,” said David Ernesto Munar, AFC President and CEO. “Nowadays it seems people rarely go anywhere without their cell phone. But it’s actually more than a phone – it’s a lifeline to testing, care and support.”

The smartphone-driven bus shelter ads feature scannable “quick response” (QR) codes to instantly direct mobile users to videos from community ambassadors and to the HIV testing and care website, The videos are It Gets Better-style testimonials from young Black men, women, clergy, and members of the “ball community,” a dynamic LBGT subculture in which individuals compete for prizes and respect by “walking” or “vogueing.”

“This is one of the first citywide health promotion campaigns to target and feature members of the ball community,” said Change My Story co-creator Alicia Bunton, AFC director of care and quality improvement. “Given that this phase of the campaign aims to reach gay and bisexual men, especially young men, we felt it was important to appeal to the ball community with imagery and language that spoke to them.”

As a community-level social marketing campaign, Change My Story features real people who provide real talk about serious health issues. Residents will likely recognize popular community figures in campaign collaterals from the compelling videos on to palm cards to the five different bus shelter ads, depicting the moments worth living for: girls night out, vogueing at a mini-ball, exercising with friends, brunch with the guys, waking up to sunshine.

“In focus groups with the target populations, this idea seemed to resonate best: life is a series of small and special moments; if you take care of your health starting right now, you can have a lot more of these special moments. That’s the essence of Change My Story,” said AFC Chief External Relations Officer Johnathon Briggs who, with Bunton, helped develop the campaign.

To help bring the campaign essence to life, AFC worked with renowned San Francisco-based photographer Duane Cramer, the social marketing executive responsible for the imagery in the Greater Than AIDS and Testing Makes Us Stronger campaigns. Change My Story is funded by a Community Partnership grant from AIDS United, a national HIV/AIDS agency in Washington, D.C.

Change My Story asks individuals to “join the movement” in three distinct ways:

•    Say yes to the test. It’s about getting tested for HIV/AIDS, but also other diseases that can steal moments from your life (hypertension, high cholesterol, hepatitis, diabetes, and cancer). Make your health a priority and experience more of the moments in life that are important to you.

•    Connect to care. will help you connect to care services that are right for you and the experts who can help. Find out what you need to know to take control – whether or not you have health insurance.

•    Spread the word. Each one, reach one. Spread the word to your friends and family. Encourage them to take control of their own health – like you did.

Plans are under way for a speaker series, concert and other community and celebrity events to help drive health screenings and increase access to care. By combating the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and connecting people to vital care services through the AIDS Foundation of Chicago’s testing and care initiatives, Change My Story aims to drastically improve the health and lifestyle of the African-American community and other at-risk populations.

First launched in the summer of 2011, Change My Story was recognized with a 2012 Golden Trumpet Award by the Publicity Club of Chicago for outstanding achievement in community relations. The campaign also received the 2012 Edwin J. Shaughnessy Quality of Life Award for “foremost contribution of the year for improving the quality of life in our society through communications.”


Founded in 1985 by community activists and physicians, AFC collaborates with community organizations to develop and improve HIV/AIDS services; funds and coordinates prevention, care, and advocacy projects; and champions effective, compassionate HIV/AIDS policy. For more information, visit


Categorized under Prevention.

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