The objective of our ACIOP project is to create online, animated, Spanish-language vignettes to provide HIV education and links to NLM resources. Our goal is to create highly visual, engaging content in order to get our audience involved in stories they enjoy and can relate to. Over the first half of our project period, we held multiple Spanish-language focus groups with community members to understand how they currently obtain HIV information, and how our stories could help share new information they need. Focus groups were held at three different locations in NYC and on Long Island and had mixed demographics: some groups were all YMSM, some were all women, and some were a mix of ages and genders.
While our final products are fictional, we engage in an ongoing process of obtaining community input and feedback to ensure that the characters and scenarios are as realistic as possible while conveying our target educational messaging. In the first round of focus groups, we described our project as being similar a soap opera story, and gathered details on the sorts of main characters the community would like to see as well as what those characters should look like. Our initial focus group results included broad feedback such as emphasizing the importance of family in the Hispanic community by having some characters related to one another, as well as more specific suggestions such as having our male characters be neat and nicely dressed, with no baggy or low riding jeans.
Other community members suggested that we include a wide variety of character demographics because they felt that most HIV/AIDS educational material they’ve seen has been targeted at the LGBT community, and they wanted this project to show additional lifestyles and viewpoints. They also felt that a wide variety of characters would be useful in terms of reaching high-risk populations through their social and family circles. For example, focus group participants noted that an older character may no longer be sexually active or otherwise at-risk, but they may need information to help them talk to an at-risk family member or help that family member locate resources.
Based on this feedback, the content creation team developed the following primary cast of characters:
- Mateo: Age 23, is questioning his sexuality and has had encounters with both men and women.
- Gabriel: Age 26, openly out and seeking a long-term relationship but using hookup apps in the meantime. He is on PrEP but not regularly using protection against STIs.
- Angela: Age 22, Gabriel’s cousin, a community college student who is in a relationship with a brutish young man named Esteban who shows signs of being unfaithful to her.
- Maria Elena: In her 40’s, she is Gabriel’s mother and has heard rumors that her son is gay but is finally coming to terms with that truth and trying to learn how to help him stay safe.
Our artist then created initial draft sketches of these four characters, which we brought to focus groups for further feedback. The results of that focus group will be covered in our next blog post.