Cable Positive: Eleven Years Later, Still Growing

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Cable Positive was started in 1992 by three executives who were losing people to AIDS.

"It took a great toll on the creative people first, and the people in this industry were in a position to do something about it," Steve Villano, the CEO for the past two years, said. "They couldn't sit and do nothing."

The effort grew into a full-blown nonprofit organization that put the industry's clout behind the fight against the disease.

Across the networks — and in the community — the group has raised awareness and tens of thousands of dollars. Cable Positive sold the red ribbon pins and hosted great fundraisers. It put out a cookbook that raised $31,000. The money was turned over to deserving groups within the community.

On air, the momentum began showing as well, as cable slowly replaced silence with programs addressing topics no one had wanted to talk about.

By the mid-1990s, gay men were taking precautions and lobbying Washington to help prevent the spread of AIDS and HIV. New drugs were extending lives by decades.

The media attention cooled somewhat, as cases exploded among ever-younger, ever-poorer people. Parallel diseases also increased among these groups: tuberculosis, asthma and diabetes. These were no longer the lovers and colleagues of cable executives being infected. Cable Positive has recently regrouped.

"Battle fatigue was setting in," said Villano. "We needed to reinvigorate the board and come up with recommendations for what we wanted Cable Positive to do. We went through a very rigorous strategic planning process."

The result: coordinated efforts, with local chapters in Atlanta, Denver, New York, Philadelphia and St. Louis tied into local cable providers that can address unique demographics. Chapters also adopt community groups that engage in effective programs.

Now, to coincide with World AIDS Day, Cable Positive has rolled out its broadest effort yet. Titled, "Is Today the Day you Get AIDS?" the integrated campaign will feature public service announcements that many networks will run simultaneously.

Spots target young people in carefree moments, in order to show that so-called "typical" kids can become infected. In one spot, a group of teens plays around with pictures in a photo booth. In another, girls get ready for a night out. The ads will also publicize the campaign's Web site (www.Istodaytheday.org), and a toll free number, (800) 909-2DAY.

The Web site will draw viewers into the stories of young people who have been infected with HIV. The approach is deliberately non-confrontational.

"You cannot stigmatize this disease if you want people to face it," said Villano. "If we get people to face this, maybe we can prolong prevention long enough until we get a cure."

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