This poster represents an evolution of the peer-to-peer approach to educating teenagers about HIV and AIDS. Employing the somewhat humorous, casual approach popularized by Salt-n-Pepa the creators of this ad campaign (who were actually teens themselves) incorporated not only images of their target audience but also “hip” jargon and an interactive element that would appeal to the tech-happy 12 to 19 year-old demographic. (A New York Times article exploring the campaign was only too happy to point out how New Media-savvy and appealing to today’s youth this ad was, going so far as to translate the it’s “computer speak” for readers “not hooked up to the grid.”) In reality, it’s likely that the ad’s sponsors (Cable Positive, the AIDS action organization of the cable and telecommunications industry, and Motorola) had something to do with the text message-friendly catchphrase and promotional strategy.
It’s also remarkable that the students who designed the campaign were also the posed for it, playing the parts of misinformed teens and apparently aware of the irony in using humor to express the idea that HIV is a serious matter.
Another interesting detail in the design of this poster is its representation of the overwhelmingly disproportionate HIV rates among minorities. Three of the teenagers pictured here are minorities, possibly an acknowledgment of the fact that they are statistically more likely to contract HIV than non-minorities (specifically, African Americans–50% of the students shown–are roughly twice as likely to contract the virus.) At the same time, it’s unclear whether recognizing this additional vulnerability is useful to a campaign which emphasizes that risky behavior exposes all teens to the threat of AIDS, regardless to their social statuses.