The Coolest Kid on the Block

Levi Strauss & Co.
June 8, 2010

When I was growing up in San Francisco’s Mission district, the coolest kid on the block was this guy named Jason. Everybody knew Jason, and when he did something, everybody else followed.

He was the first kid who had Star Wars action figures, and we all had to have them too. When he started pegging his 501® jeans, it was only a matter of time before everyone else was pegging theirs. It’s hard to say exactly why Jason had such an effect on the rest of us, but he clearly did.

Call it the “Jason effect.”

In Oakland, they’re using the same approach with HIV/AIDS prevention. And with good reason.

As it turns out, Oakland, CA is one of the worst-affected cities in the United States when it comes to HIV infection rates.

So businesses, community leaders and health experts launched Get Screened Oakland.

The idea is that if you see your community leaders and your neighbors getting tested, you’re more likely to get tested too. If they’re talking about HIV prevention, you’re more likely to get talking about it too.

This month, Get Screened Oakland (supported by the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria) has kicked off a new prevention strategy that will serve as a national model – with small businesses in target neighborhoods of Oakland providing condoms and HIV/AIDS prevention education to their customers.

Here at Levi Strauss & Co., we’re familiar with the “Jason effect.”

In 1982, a group of employees in San Francisco wanted to distribute educational materials to co-workers about an unknown but potentially deadly disease.

These employees were concerned other employees would assume they were gay. So senior company leaders distributed the information in the lobby of the company’s headquarters to communicate the seriousness of this disease and the importance of educating the work force about HIV/AIDS.

Today, the Levi Strauss Foundation remains committed to fighting the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS by supporting local community organizations like Get Screened Oakland which put forth innovative ways to stop HIV. As a company, Levi Strauss & Co. is dedicated to supporting the next generation of pioneering leaders in the fight against this pandemic.

I’m proud to be part of a company that’s involved – both with key issues like HIV/AIDS prevention and in the communities where we work and live.

The “Jason effect” is just as powerful now as ever. And in this case, it goes beyond being cool. It’s about saving lives.