Lifestyle

Casey House rewrites the stories of beloved TV characters to smash stigma around HIV/AIDS

Study reveals 65 million North Americans would rather their favourite TV character die than see them get diagnosed with HIV/AIDS

February 20, 2020
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TORONTO – February 19, 2020 – Today Casey House is launching their latest Smash Stigma campaign with the release of “never-before-seen” episodes of Friends and The Office. 

This year’s campaign explores how popular culture has the power to change perceptions of those living with HIV/AIDS, and has rallied the support of television host and correspondent, Karl Schmid, television personality and pop culture expert. Watch the episodes and our docuseries, Untold Stories of Stigma at SmashStigma.ca.

“For me, the anxiety I felt around revealing my HIV+ status to my parents, let alone publicly, was debilitating. In so many ways the stigma was worse than the diagnosis and that’s why I kept it a secret for 10 years,” said Karl Schmid, ABC Television Correspondent, +Life Host. “We haven’t had a proper conversation about this disease since the ‘80s and ‘90s and the reality has changed. It’s no longer exclusively the image of very ill people isolated in hospital beds. It’s me. I am what HIV+ looks like in 2020.”

Casey House Smash Stigma Survey 2020
The study also uncovers that almost 65 million North Americans believe their friends, family and co-workers would shun them if they revealed they were HIV+, and that nearly 40 million North Americans would rather not know they had HIV even if they had the disease – a striking indication that the stigma around HIV/AIDS remains pervasive. 

For Casey House, an HIV specialty hospital in Toronto founded on compassion, the new campaign encourages people worldwide to consider the role popular culture has played, and could play, in reducing stigma and growing empathy for those living with HIV/AIDS. 

The Episodes: Friends and The Office
This year’s campaign is the result of combing through hundreds of hours of Friends and The Office to create two new episodes. Re-edited to tell the story of Joey’s ignorance in the face of Chandler’s HIV diagnosis (Friends) and a toxic office environment when Oscar discloses he lives with HIV (The Office). These storylines shed light on HIV stigma and how the disease impacts friendships and workplace relationships. 

“The campaign really makes you take stock and consider what if the TV shows that defined the cultural zeitgeist of the time could have helped improve the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS today, decades later?” said Joanne Simons, CEO of Casey House. “There is a disturbing gap in the conversation that is being ignored between the incredible strides we have made in the medical treatment of the disease and the startling lack of progress in society’s treatment of those living with HIV. Casey House is working to bridge that gap, but we can’t do it alone.” 

Professional impersonators lent their voices. Lookalikes replaced the actors’ mouths through innovative post-production techniques. The result is a seamless recreation of these memorable TV moments. 

For additional Canadian and U.S. survey findings, Untold Stories of Stigma Docuseries Videos and Friends and The Office trailers please click here

You can also follow along here: #smashstigma. 

For more information or to book an interview with Joanne Simons or our HIV+ advocates, please contact:

Jessica Leroux, jessica.leroux@narrative.ca,(416) 843-7210

Tony Koutoulas, Tony.Koutoulas@narrative.ca,(416) 786-7793

About Casey House: 

Casey House opened in 1988 as Canada’s first stand-alone treatment facility for people living with HIV/AIDS. Since then, we’ve evolved into a sub-acute HIV specialty hospital in Toronto, Canada with primarily outpatient programming and are a world leader in HIV/AIDS health care. As one of the few places where people with HIV/AIDS know they’ll receive compassionate care without judgment. 

Although many people who live with HIV can manage their disease effectively with a support network and access to treatment, Casey House clients are not part of that majority and fall into the category of the 40% of people in Ontario not on treatment. They are vulnerable, seeking safety and need nourishment. Casey House will continue to provide unequivocal compassion to clients in need providing them with a holistic approach to their care and treatment. 

Survey Methodology:

Conducted in partnership with Maru/Blue, Casey House developed and conducted a survey of 1,500 Canadians and 1,500 Americans to determine their knowledge and perception of HIV/AIDS, including insights into bias and stigma.

Canada:

From January 10th to January 12th 2020 an online survey of 1,518 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Maru Voice Canada panelists was executed by Maru/Blue. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size has an estimated margin of error (which measures sampling variability) of +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been weighted by education, age, gender and region (and in Quebec, language) to match the population, according to Census data. This is to ensure the sample is representative of the entire adult population of Canada

US:

From January 10th to January 12th 2020 an online survey of 1,515 randomly selected American adults who are Springboard America Community panel members was executed by Maru/Blue. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size has an estimated margin of error (which measures sampling variability) of ±2.5%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been weighted by education, age, gender and region to match the population, according to Census data. This is to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of America.

NOTE: North American data includes Americans and Canadians surveyed only.

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