The Hands-On Approach to Challenging Stigma
By: Ben Thomas
Earlier this year, I rode from SF to LA in the AIDs/LifeCycle with 3,000 other riders and volunteers, many of who are affected by, or live with, HIV/AIDs. The purpose of the ride is twofold; to raise money for incredibly important HIV/AIDs research, and challenge misperceptions and stigma that still exist of HIV/AIDs.
For example, according to a North America wide poll, almost half of Americans wouldn’t touch someone with HIV/AIDs. It’s the insight behind “Healing House”, a pop up spa in Toronto by Casey House, a HIV Hospital, where all the spa workers are HIV positive. In an environment that’s designed for skin-to-skin contact, Healing House is a way to challenge the discomfort about something that’s still an unknown for a lot of people, while creating empathy between the spa workers and customers.
Whether we realize it or not, as creatives, advertisers and marketers, we have a lot of influence in society. We can either choose to reinforce perceptions and stigmas or make a conscious effort to challenge them, from beauty to ability to age. It might not always be easy, but the outcome is far more important than sales numbers or brand tracking results. We have a powerful platform, let’s use it.