Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) has launched two bilingual media campaigns promoting HIV treatment as a powerful method of HIV prevention.
When a person with HIV takes their medications as prescribed, they can keep the amount of HIV in their body so low that it can’t be passed to their sexual partners. Based on strong scientific evidence backed by the CDC, this concept is also known as Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U). U=U has broad implications for increasing the self-esteem of people with HIV while reducing public fear and stigma associated with the disease. This breakthrough in HIV prevention will contribute to the U.S.'s vision of ending the local HIV epidemic by 2030.
The two campaigns promote U=U with messaging tailored for specific audiences.
“Positively You!” is designed to inform young people ages 18 to 30 with HIV about the availability of free, high-quality medical care and support services offered by the Ryan White Part A Program at MCDPH. Propelled by affirmative statements and a vibrant color palette, the campaign features local young adults who share their inspiring stories of why HIV treatment is important and how Ryan White services have helped them live healthy and well.
“Ryan White services have helped me become undetectable. I am currently receiving case management services, and I do get nutrition assistance and housing assistance,” said Markel, a Ryan White client and participant in the campaign. Ramon, who is also featured, shared, “Ryan White pays my deductible for my insurance so I can get medications at no cost. As soon as I got to an undetectable status, I knew that everything would be pretty much normal for me.”
Since 1997, the federally funded Ryan White Part A Program has provided free medical care and supportive services to thousands of people with HIV. Eligibility is based on income. “Some people think that they won’t qualify for assistance because they aren’t ‘poor’ or disadvantaged in some way,” said Carmen Batista, Ryan White Program Manager. “The truth is the program can assist people with a wide range of income levels and needs.” Eligible clients have access to help with medical costs, dental care, monthly food vouchers, and other needed services.
The second campaign, “Love Live” is designed to educate people with HIV and the public about the significance of Undetectable=Untransmittable. “Love Live” features local people with HIV celebrating the excitement and freedom of U=U, highlighted by bright graphics and simple messaging.
For Rebecca, learning about U=U was life-changing. “Without U=U, I would not be able to live as free as I am now. I am no longer fearful that I can infect others. It’s freedom I never believed I would have,” she said.
It takes commitment for a person with HIV to reach an undetectable status. They must take their meds every day as prescribed. For some, it can take several months to get to an undetectable level. Once a doctor confirms a person’s HIV is undetectable, the individual will still need to take their meds daily and attend regular medical appointments to ensure they remain undetectable long-term.
Despite their best efforts, some people may never reach an undetectable status. This may be due to other health issues, how often they take their meds or socioeconomic factors. It’s ok if a person can’t lower their HIV. To live the healthiest life possible, they should keep taking their meds as prescribed and choose other HIV prevention options.
Elijah was diagnosed with HIV in 2020. “For me, being virally suppressed, it means that I can live fully, love fully and thrive fully. I don't have to be scared or ashamed of my status; I have peace of mind knowing that not only can I not transmit HIV to my partners and loved ones, but I am healthy and remain healthy!”
If you are living with HIV and would like to apply for Ryan White-funded services, contact Central Eligibility at (602) 212-3788.
For more information, visit PositivelyYouAZ.com and liveUequalsU.com.