Since Truvada was first approved as a once-a-day HIV prevention pill, use of PrEP has been increasing, but advocates say adoption isn't happening fast enough — and they're doing something about it. For example, last year, California passed a landmark bill ensuring that everyone who tests negative for HIV hears about PrEP. But, so far, most of those who are being prescribed PrEP are gay white men. Unfortunately, those most at risk — young gay and bisexual men of color and transgender women — are reportedly the least likely to know about PrEP, often have misconceptions about it, and face barriers getting it prescribed.
Now, The Los Angeles LGBT Center has a new campaign that seeks to change that using raw data and everyday language to provide the truth about PrEP, the info and support to help people get a prescription, and a reminder that condoms prevent other sexually transmistted infections that PrEP doesn't protect from. The message: F*ck Without Fear, PrEP Here.
Through the site, PrEPHere.org, the program provides information, and a unique tool to help gay and bisexual men determine whether they should be taking PrEP. The short quiz is based in science, pulling from data collected from people who have tested for HIV at the Center and from research published in the Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases. It provides users with a “PrEP score” and helps them decide if PrEP is right for them.
Underwear designer Andrew Christian is supporting the Center's efforts through sales of his Fearless F*cker t-shirts (with an asterisk cleverly comprised of the blue pill PrEP pills) at his flagship West Hollywood store for $25. All net profits go to support the Center’s PrEP services.
Plus spoke with Jim Key, who heads up the F*ck Without Fear campaign, about what makes it different from previous education efforts and why it may prove to be more effective.
How did you arrive at this message? Our direction for this campaign was clear: get the attention of our target demographic — young gay and bisexual men of color and transgender women — and eliminate the barriers that prevent them from protecting themselves from HIV with PrEP. We considered many logo options and a form of this logo [and] message is the one that resonated the most with our sexual health program staff. After testing it in formal and informal focus groups with our target demo, we were confident we had a winner. One of our key learnings was that among people who had heard about PrEP, some confused PrEP with PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) — a pill you take after a potential exposure to HIV. So we reconfigured the logo to prominently feature the “One PrEP pill a day can prevent HIV infection” message. When people in focus groups told us they’d wear a t-shirt with our campaign logo on it, we knew it was resonating.
Why does this message resonate with people of color and trans women where others haven't? In focus groups we tested our campaign with others that are already running and some of the words people used to describe ours were “real” “direct, realistic” “responsible” “makes you think, makes you curious” “free.” What we heard is that our proposed message felt authentic, while some others were described as staged and too commercial.
Why would you say previous messaging has failed to reach them? What our research and experience shows is that it's tough to cut through the clutter of messages that bombard the people we’re trying to reach, particularly young people. We were determined to develop something that was not only real and authentic but would break through that clutter and that’s how we hope ours will be successful. But it’s more than the campaign logo [and] message. Our campaign will address the specific perceived barriers to using PrEP by our target demographic that were recently documented in a report by APLA Health of young gay and bisexual men. It revealed that Latino and African-American youth are the least likely to know about PrEP and less than 10 percent are using it. Those who do know about PrEP frequently have misconceptions about it, including the belief that it’s not effective or safe and that it’s unaffordable. More than helping people know there’s now a pill to prevent HIV infection, we’re overcoming doubts about its safety and efficacy. We're helping to make it affordable through patient assistance programs, we’re making it easy to schedule a free PrEP consultation online, and we’re even offering transportation assistance for those who don’t live close to our facilities.
To learn more about the F*ck Without Fear campaign, PrEP, and how to book a free PrEP consultation online, visit PrEPHere.org.