State to distribute them for free Get something for nothing: a
free prepaid telephone card - and an AIDS education.
The state Department of Health Services is launching the first
long-distance calling card campaign aimed at reducing the
spread of HIV, giving away 50,000 free 10-minute cards to
Californians at high risk of infection. When you want to place
a call, you insert the card into the pay phone and dial.
But first you must listen to a message: "You have the power to
stop HIV and AIDS. Use a condom every time you have sex." The
recording then refers you to an AIDS hot line for more
It's believed to be a good way to target hard-to-reach
populations: young gay, bisexual, or drug-using men,
particularly African Americans and Latinos.
"It's an opportunity to engage someone in a discussion of HIV
counseling, testing and risks," said Drew Johnson of the
Department of Health Services in Sacramento. "It's a chance to
talk to someone."
Calling cards have been used successfully in the private sector
to promote products and services. State health officials aim to
use the same marketing strategy to deliver a prevention message
to those at risk of HIV. The $50,000 program is part of a
three-year, $7.8 million "social-marketing" campaign sponsored
by state health officials. The cards will be given away by
community-based AIDS groups in nightclubs, bars, street
hangouts, cruising areas and sex clubs.
The campaign also has launched the Beauty Salon Outreach
Program, a network of African American and Latino haircutters
who provide literature, and an upcoming scratcher-card campaign
for young adults, to be distributed in record stores and video
Health officials have worried that the success story of the
late 1980s - when the deadly new AIDS epidemic triggered a
profound change in human health behavior, sending infection
rates plummeting - has come to an end. The infection rate has
not dropped for three years. The number of new infections in
the United States has frozen at about 40,000 people a year, 500
to 1,000 of them from San Francisco.
"It is an innovative way to reach people where they are, when
they're not ready for more sensitive information," said Robert
Perez of San Francisco's STOP AIDS Program.