Improving sexual health awareness and reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS through community education and peer-to-peer mentoring.
How can a university marshall its health education resources to provide life-saving information about HIV/AIDS and promote safe sex practices to youth in underserved urban communities?
The University of Chicago’s Living Positively program, a peer advocacy, education and counseling initiative for people living with HIV/AIDS, serves at-risk youth in Chicago’s African American community, which suffers higher rates of HIV/AIDS among both men and women. The University wanted a more compelling online presence with an updated website to engage this hard-to-reach audience, where issues surrounding sexual health and HIV/AIDS are often stigmatized. A website refresh would have to strike a balance between being informative, straightforward and credible while conveying a hip, youthful vibe that would appeal to a younger audience.
The University of Chicago teamed with the Usman Group to develop a design and content strategy and create a better user experience. We collaborated with multiple schools and teams across the University, from the web services department to the Medical Center to capture medical-related content and resources. Our team devised a simplified site map with an enhanced search function to make it easier for visitors to get to the information they needed. We refreshed the Living Positively brand with appealing, spot-on graphics; interactive content like fun quizzes and quick videos; and social media links and feeds to build community. To enhance the site’s relatability, we also enlisted three “real people” who would serve as guides on the site and add warmth and a personal connection. And every page provided easy access to services with a call to action — “Get the Facts,” “Get Tested,” “Get Treated,” “Need Someone to Talk to?” — to compel users to sign up.
The new Living Positively website allowed the University to reach beyond the bounds of academia and really engage with the community. The site launched in 2011 and, promoted by an aggressive ad campaign (both online and traditional), provided a lifeline for thousands of Chicagoans in need of support and free, confidential healthcare services.