PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has announced the teen winners and finalists of its inaugural "Say Yes to the Test" video ad contest. Zoe Prescott and Bomina Belden, who co-produced their 30-second video for a class project at Westerly High School, won First Place following a final round of competition judged by peers and a representative from HEALTH at the annual World AIDS Day Red Ribbon Rally held recently at the MET School in Providence.
HEALTH and Project Reach co-sponsored the annual youth rally, which also involved many community partners. HEALTH plans to incorporate the winning submission into a statewide campaign to promote routine testing for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and crucial prevention measures.
Prescott and Belden produced a live stop-action video public service announcement that emphasized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 20% of the 1.1 million people in the U.S. living with HIV today do not know they have it and risk infecting others. The video encouraged routine testing so that those who know they are HIV-positive can help prevent spreading the disease through prevention practices.
Second-place winners Mike Heiberger and Austin Cilley, also from Westerly High School, were also honored during the event. Their video portrayed a nurse encouraging a patient to get tested for HIV and explaining how simple the test is.
To view the "Say Yes to the Test" winning video ads, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-J6cfFeOd04&list=PLS35A8sS2cgbEGdYJt_ynuuV9dDyCxNxy&index=1
"We applaud our talented young videomakers and are excited to share their important messages about HIV testing with all Rhode Islanders," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "Involving young people in this discussion is a critical step in stopping the spread of HIV in Rhode Island. It's important for all generations to get tested and know their status."
HIV can spread from anyone infected through sexual activity or intravenous drug use. HEALTH's goal is reducing new HIV transmissions in Rhode Island to zero. More than 2,000 Rhode Islanders were known to be living with HIV as of 2011, with many more Rhode Islanders infected yet unaware of their status. If left untreated, the infection is more easily spread and can progress to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), the final stage of HIV, which causes severe damage to the immune system.
Testing sites for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases can be found throughout the state. Some testing sites offer free or low-cost services, and some offer anonymous testing that use a unique identifier instead of the person's name. All services are confidential for all patients. For more information, visit: www.health.ri.gov/find/hivtestingsites
Learn more about HEALTH's strategies for reducing HIV transmission in Rhode Island to zero, as well as its programs for HIV prevention and care, at http://www.health.ri.gov/programs/hivaidsandviralhepatitis/