Sunday, September 25, 2011

Change My Story- What's Behind these Billboards

You have seen the bus shelters and billboards around the city. Change My Story? So what is behind these ads. The ad campaign is a new grassroots initiative aimed at minority communities on Chicago’s South Side by the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. AIDS Foundation of Chicago is a leader in the worldwide fight against HIV/AIDS. 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 Change My Story features real people who provide real talk about serious health issues. From local hairdressers to pastors to business owners and celebrities, current and former residents of several South Side neighbourhoods are lending their voices to the campaign through PSAs, bus shelter ads, blogs and social media. Campaign supporters include TV personality/comedian Sherri Shepherd, renowned producer and musician Frankie Knuckles and jazz artist Maggie Brown. The goal is to encourage people to live their life to the fullest by taking control of their health, getting tested and getting care. serves as a tool to connect the community to health resources and information in a relaxed, conversational tone, doing away with the complex clinical jargon and taking the conversation to the streets. I had the pleasure of speaking with a community ambassador Mr. Curtis Montgomery, last week. Mr. Montgomery is an AID outreach worker, advocate and an individual living with AIDS. Mr. Montgomery stated he contracted AIDS as a result of engaging in high risk activities with no regard of the consequence. He further stated that this disregard of consequeces is one of the major reasons individuals contract the disease. He got behind this effort because although there have been high profile individuals who contracted the disese and a number of other initiatives, the number of AIDS cases in the African American community continue to rise. Groups that are seeing the greatest increase are both male and females 18-25 and African American women. My question was how and why? Mr. Montgomery stated that high risk behavior(i.e. sex with no condom,multiple sex partners, etc.) and unprotected sex with men who are having sex with other men and or engaging in high risk behaviors. I asked about testing and how advances technology has made testing as easy as taking a mouth swab. So why won't people get tested and find out their status? The fear of rejection and isolation are the predominant reasons per Mr. Montgomery. Individuals are scared of the rejection from family, friends and their community and being singled out as an "individuals with AIDS". So how does "Change My Story" get the message out. The website offers information in a non threatening manner on where to get tested, why you need to get tested, and most importantly if you find out you are infected, where to get care and support regardless of your financial situation. As Mr. Montgomery stated to me that finding out you are infected with HIV is not a death sentence. He stated that advances in medical technology give individuals with the disease longer life expectancy and a better quality of life. Also, there are support groups available and a number of churches are opening up and offering support to individuals with the disease. For more information on Change My Story go to or Also, Mr Mongomery and other community ambassadors are available to addrees your group. Contact them at I'm going to "Change My Story" by passing this information along to everyone I know, so in the future I won't have to see any more neighbors, teachers, former co workers and friends of the family die from AIDS. I want to see the number of my fellow church members standing, who have had someone close to them die from AIDS, reduce. Hopefully, this information will Change My Story.

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