One of the most pressing public health issues of our times, has been the scourge of HIV/AIDS. The disease – which began to gain notoriety and attention throughout the 1980′s – has crippled the lives of many Americans, most often bringing unwelcome stigmas and lifelong medication treatments.
A particular class I took in college (as a matter of fact, it was the class that brought me from engineering to the public health world), was focused on disease prevention. Among diseases like diabetes and tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS was usually at the top of the list of diseases that needed focused attention to cure/eradicate. Now that we are in the 2000s and in an age of advanced communication, many of the details related to the disease itself – as well as cutting edge research working toward a cure – can be effectively disseminated to the lay audience. For far too long, the darker side of word of mouth communication allowed for incorrect insight into the world of those living with the disease. Now we can change that…
A good example of technology (more specifically the social web) being used to inform the public is the recently launched AIDS.gov blog. AIDS. gov is the official website of the Department of Health and Human Services‘ communication on the HIV/AIDS issue. Their willingness to delve into the social media aspect of communication should be applauded in itself. This is what I’m talking about when I mention thoughts on how social technology can help the health world. Health is about people. How people live, eat and interact…and also learn. The site does a great job of introducing people to the disease and the blog seems to facilitate a way for people to interact with how the government is handling the issue.
This is of course a vulnerable position as there is always the tendency for the public to not always trust government leadership. This is a great step in the right direction. The HIV/AIDS dilemma is a big one – a global one. And from my point of view, problems can be solved faster by having more people truly understand what is at stake.
Bottom line is, as we continue to become more connected, more vocal about what is going on in our lives, it’s important to not only become knowledgeable about these issues but also to provide feedback regarding solutions. Especially in the realm of health – it’s not about what the government can provide, it’s not about a “professional” tackling the problem for us. Our better health future relies on you – it relies on me – to make forward progress. Get educated about health issues that matter to you…and then give back.