Skip to Content

Winner Story

+Talk: The Steve Pieters Interview
by AOMedia

+Life Media’s +Talk series produced by AOMedia focuses on complex HIV-related topics, emphasizing the importance of storytelling in changing perceptions and breaking stigma. +Life Co-Founder, Karl Schmid sat down with long-term AIDS survivor, Rev. Steve Pieters to talk about his life, survival, and his portrayal in the movie The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Take a look at this episode that won the 2022 Award of Excellence in Social: Content & Marketing – Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and the 2022 Award of Distinction in Social: Video – Public Service & Activism,

We sat down with the team at AOMedia to discuss their creative direction with the +LIFE brand, their biggest challenges and how winning a Communicator Award has validated and amplified their message.

What inspired the creative direction for this episode of +Talk?
Telling Steve Pieters’s story was incredibly important to us and aligned perfectly with +LIFE’s brand promise – talk openly about HIV and educate others to fight and end stigma. Steve’s journey of living authentically as an openly gay, HIV-positive reverend, served as an important example of advocacy, resilience, and faith, specifically for those struggling with an HIV/AIDS diagnosis, so we chose to shoot in a church that Steve had a personal connection to.

Describe your biggest challenge for the series so far.
One of our greatest challenges has been finding a way to tell stories or convey important information in more than the bite size piece of content that people are accustomed to consuming. HIV is a topic that directly relates to sex and dating, science, medicine, criminalization, stigma, and so much more, and because the topic of HIV is complex, one-minute soundbites do not give the context we often need. So, our challenge has been, how do we create content engaging enough to keep our audience watching what is not always a sexy subject.

Which aspects of the series are you most proud of?
We are most proud of the diversity of stories and guests we’ve presented. It has been so important for us to represent the entire population of people living with HIV, which is everyone. We are firm believers that while anyone can convey a message, it’s usually easier received by people who look like you. We are also immensely proud of feedback we get from around the world. Many of these messages are from people living in countries with archaic views of the LGBTQ community and HIV who felt alone until they found us. Often, it’s a person who just found out they are living with HIV, and they are relieved to see content with other HIV positive people thriving. We also receive messages from parents or friends of someone living with HIV whose understanding has grown by watching our content.

How does the +Talk series represent AOMedia’s creative ethos?
AOMedia is hyper-focused on storytelling, and this interview gave Steve the opportunity to share his story in more than media sound bites and gave us the opportunity to shoot a long form interview in a more cinematic way than other interviews in the +Talk series. The series speaks to inclusive creativity, which is something we put great value in, as several people work in concert to bring each interview to fruition.

If you had an unlimited budget, what would you add?
With an unlimited budget we would take the show on the road to reach into communities affected disproportionately by HIV – this includes many poverty-stricken areas and communities of color, particularly in the Southern United States where infection rates are rising. This is our dream, to directly message the communities that need to hear it most and then share that content with the world. We’d also travel internationally and continue to partner with organizations helping to find a vaccine, end stigma, and disseminate facts such as U=U (undetectable equals untransmittable).

What does winning a Communicator Award mean to you?
Winning the Communicator Award means that our hard work, advocacy, and passion is being recognized as excellent by an organization and peers that value branding, creative aesthetics, and content. +LIFE was built around our friend and colleague Karl
Schmid’s brave disclosure and our recognition that people were not talking about HIV anymore. We set out to create a brand that would change the narrative on a highly stigmatized subject that many of us know little about, and now we are able to pass that knowledge and message on to others, including our own children, friends, and loved ones. Winning this award also offers a specific legitimacy from the creative community, allowing us to pursue higher profile guests, public figures, and partner with more organizations to amplify our message.

Get the Newsletter