Strengthening awareness about HIV and knowledge about PrEP among at-risk youth
Dealing with HIV transmission awareness head-on: The Challenge
427 New Yorkers ages 13 to 24 years were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2017. Among this group, 59% were young Black and Latino cisgender MSM (men who have sex with men). There’s a lack of knowledge about PrEP beyond its basic uses and benefits as a preventative measure against HIV with this demographic. While PrEP has been around for years, only a small portion of those at high risk for HIV infection use it due to misinformation on side effects, effectiveness, and cost.
We developed a year long exploratory research study targeting YMCSM (young men of color who have sex with men) and YTWC (young transgender women of color) involving surveys, in-depth interviews, focus groups, and message testing. Due to the stigma of an HIV/AIDS diagnosis, some participants said they live in “constant anxiety” and anticipation of judgment, and felt healthcare professionals lack training on delivering health care services to the LGBTQ community, resulting in feelings of isolation, shame, and fear. Trans women of color were especially worried about the side effects, fearing PrEP might interfere with the efficacy of their hormones. Participants also expressed a desire to see a diverse campaign that conveys that“anyone” can catch an STI, and “not just them.”
We learned the key to reaching this demographic is to make them feel included, not targeted. We recommended PrEP create a campaign that humanizes those living with HIV, de-stigmatizes the diagnosis, and promotes getting tested. This helped reshape the campaign to increase the appeal and effectiveness of its message. The end result was a sensitive, relatable, positive campaign with wide-reaching effects.