Patient Communication Improves Treatment of HIV

In the 1980s, HIV was a scourge on the population, killing over 100K people by 1991. Stigma and general ignorance about it seriously undermined treatment.   To confront these problems, patient communication programs funded by governments and foundations were initiated. This type of patient communication was novel, with almost no precedent. A famous PSA launched in the UK was the “Don’t Die of Ignorance” campaign. Similar campaigns in the US were used to change the public impression of the disease.  

Patient Education Programs Made A Difference

These patient education programs were a vital part of the strategy to reduce the spread of this disease. Along with advancements in treatment, the HIV mortality rate was significantly decreased over the next decade. However, it continues to pose a grave threat to many.  Approximately 1.2 million people in the US have HIV and about 13 percent of them don’t know about it.  The need testing. In other categories that are "silent" (non-symptomatic), these types of programs are very important. Prevention of the condition is also very important. Patient education efforts from the government and foundations are now being supplemented by education and DTC marketing efforts.   Gilead has committed resources to work with communities to advance education and treatment of HIV.  And marketing for Descovy help patients to understand options for treatment.

Gilead DTC Marketing for HIV

Descovy is a medication that helps people that are sexually active lower their chances of getting HIV. Following in the footsteps of early marketing for the disease, Gilead talks about the “real people” who are using Descovy. In its TV ad, Gilead visualizes a wide variety of people who might contract the disease.

Chris Freeman, Gilead’s vice president of U.S. sales and marketing says, “We know oftentimes this can be stereotyped to one or two specific populations, but in reality that’s simply not true. There are some less traditional groups and harder-to-reach groups we’re hoping this campaign resonates with.”

Ahead of industry trends, Gilead is also shifting a large percentage of its spend from TV and print into digital forms of advertising. Among the leading DTC spenders, companies that make HIV brands had the highest percentage (28%) of its spend in digital in 2021. This is more than double the amount that companies in the HIV category spent on digital marketing in the prior year. Among these companies, Gilead has recognized that digital can deliver “information rich” communication. Unlike other channels (especially TV), this can help patients to understand HIV prevention and treatment better.  Cabenuva has one of the most advanced DTC programs.

Strong Cabenuva Marketing

Cabenuva is using its marketing to highlight a key benefit of the medication.  Treatment of HIV is critical once it is contracted. Until now, patients took HIV medication on a daily basis. That changed with the introduction of Cabenuva in 2021. It is a long-acting injectable that patients can take every other month. This clearly improves ease of use of this medication. In its marketing, Cabenuva points out why this is important. It can affect how they think about HIV. It no longer has to be part of their daily routine. Robin Gaitens, ViiV Healthcare product and community communications director commented that, “While people living with HIV are generally satisfied with daily pills, some struggle with self-stigma, fear that their HIV status will be disclosed or the constant reminder of their diagnosis."  Patients need options that will enable them to overcome these fears.

Overcoming Stigma and Fear

The fear surrounding HIV has significantly diminished from the heightened levels experienced in the 80s. During that era, public service announcements, such as "Don't Die of Ignorance," played a crucial role in addressing stigma and fear, as well as awakening the population from complacency. It is important to note, however, that HIV has not disappeared. Ongoing initiatives by foundations and product makers continue to contribute to the awareness and treatment of HIV, ultimately fostering the best possible health outcomes.

Using Research To Improve Patient Communication

AIM works with clients to identify a communication approach that will most effectively speak to these patients.  Our approach emphasizes "hearing the voice" of patients.  A patient centricity that is focused on careful listening.  With over 20 years of experience, we have found that campaigns which utilize this approach will have the strongest impact.