A young man nails a work presentation, is congratulated by his coworkers, swings by a bakery, and then attends a party with his friends and family members. The scenario that plays out in a recent ad for the HIV medication Dovato is much like a typical day for Luciano Reberte, who stars in the Spanish-language commercial — the first of its kind for the drug’s maker, ViiV Healthcare.
Conceived and produced fully in Spanish, the commercial began airing this summer on the Univision and Telemundo networks. Reberte, a patient ambassador for Dovato since December 2018, was asked by ViiV executives to be part of the historic ad, but only if he shared his personal story with the commercial’s producers. By showing Reberte just going about his day, the ViiV team hopes to depict how medications like Dovato enable people living with HIV to simply live their lives.
“There were a lot of listening sessions and conversations with me to make sure this is truly who I am in the commercial and [that the ad] was a natural representation of my community,” Reberte says.
Starring in the commercial was a natural fit for Reberte, who has worked at the New York City-based Latino Commission on AIDS for the past six years and is now the nonprofit’s community engagement director. Hailing from Argentina, Reberte was diagnosed with HIV several years ago while on a visit to New York. He admits that not having a Spanish-speaking doctor then made the experience even more frightening. Reberte believes Latinx people living with HIV respond best when information on health and treatment is tailor-made for them.
Starring in the commercial was, Reberte says, “important for me, not only for all the exposure I was going to get but also because I was representing my community and being in the first Spanish-language commercial for this medication.”
He says he’s just one of the many Latinx HIV activists that always looks at new commercials and HIV campaigns and asks, “Is this in Spanish? Is this really addressing or reflecting the Spanish niche? Latinos in the U.S. are heavily affected by HIV. We need to see those commercials and campaigns represent our community.”
Currently, 27 percent of all new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. are among Latinx adults and teens. That disproportionate number — Latinos make up only 18.5 percent of the American population — is something ViiV executives are well aware of.
“In the past 10 years, we’ve seen a 16 percent increase in new cases of HIV among Latinx men who have sex with men, indicating more support and culturally relevant prevention and treatment efforts are necessary,” says Marc Meachem, head of U.S. external affairs for ViiV Healthcare. “The Latinx community requires diverse and accessible HIV care and resources that reflect their unique needs, and Spanish-language resources will help expand access to critical medical information for the more than 37 million Spanish speakers in the U.S.”
He adds, “Beyond language, we know that it is paramount that communities can see themselves reflected in efforts that are both representative of their experiences and culturally relevant. As a Latinx gay man living with HIV, the authentic story of Luciano featured in the first-ever Spanish-language TV ad for an HIV treatment promotes visibility and representation, which we hope will over time help to destigmatize HIV within the community.”
During the initial conversations around the ad campaign, Reberte stressed the importance of family — a theme incorporated into the party scene that closes out the commercial.
“Family needs to be present,” Reberte told the producers. “For many Latinos, family is very important. Everything in the commercial was taken from who I am.”
Not having much experience in front of a video camera, Reberte was a bit nervous before filming began.
“Sharing my HIV diagnosis in a national commercial was a lot,” he says. The ViiV team helped allay his anxiety, though. “They treated me like a high-level star. They were very patient and caring.”
Now, with the ad airing around the country, Reberte is emboldened by its impact.
“I think this commercial will be a lesson for other companies, not just in regards to HIV but anyone trying to get products and services to Latinx people,” Reberte says. “I think companies need to do more of this.”