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Tech Tuesday: River Region Human Services Awarded Grant For Social Media HIV Awareness Project

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River Region Human Services has received a federal grant for a program that uses social media to reach targeted populations with messages of substance abuse and HIV prevention.In this week’s Tech Tuesday segment, project director of River Region Human Services, Inc. Vince Evans sat down with our Melissa Ross to discuss the "New Media, New Messages" (NM2) grant project.

“What the project does, we target to specific risk populations,” Evans said. “African American males 18 to 34 and females and men who have sex with men 18 and above.”

“What we do is we disseminate prevention messages around substance abuse and HIV,” he said.

Evans explained that RRHS is trying to educate individuals with information about the risks that are out there and to create campaigns that are centered on specific days, such as HIV Awareness Day, to make people aware of the many services that are offered through the organization.

“What we’re attempting to do is not only put information out there but we want to have an engagement with this community. We want them to talk to us. We want them to ask questions,” he said.

“We want to interact with them and do whatever we can do to make them aware of resources that are available like free testing, condom distribution any types of linkage that we might be able to offer.”

Evans said the program has had good response from the community thus far, specifically using the social photography app Instagram.

“We kind of thought that Twitter and Facebook might be the hot places, but we found out there’s a lot of focus now on Instagram,” he said.

“People like pictures, things that they can see. Instagram allows us to kind of show a picture of something or maybe a...video that talks about HIV or how to put a condom on.”

RRHS has developed two social media sites: “Wats Da T Jax” to target African American men who have sex with men over the age of 18, and “Wats Da Play Jax” to target African American heterosexuals over the age of 15.

The RRHS project team is working with Jacksonville-based marketing firm Deppe Communications to develop and monitor the program.

You can follow Melissa Ross on Twitter @MelissainJax and Cole Gordon at @Cagordon33Cole.

WJCT News Intern Cole Gordon is a communications major at the University of North Florida.