Gilead says 'Step up for PrEP' in Descovy's first HIV prevention campaign

Gilead Sciences is winding down advertising for its first HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) med Truvada—but a new TV campaign for its next-gen Descovy is here, and the company wants viewers to know its pedigree.

The TV ad notes that Descovy is “from the makers of Truvada, a new PrEP option.” The older med is expected to face generic competition later this year, but Chris Freeman, Gilead’s vice president of U.S. sales and marketing for HIV treatment and prevention, said switching patients wasn't a primary driver for the new campaign.

“We know that’s an important link for people. Prevention is often associated really heavily with Truvada," Freeman said. "But at the same time we’re tying to raise awareness of HIV risk and all the prevention options that are out there while introducing a new one in Descovy PrEP."

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The campaign features seven different people who take turns encouraging viewers to “Step up, PrEP up” and explaining who should and why. As one actor says , “For kings, this queen and you royals in-between." Another adds that it's “For my now,” followed by a gay couple who say it's, “For our now.”

While the people in the commercial are actors, Gilead wanted to make sure many different populations of people at risk for HIV were represented. 

“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,” Freeman said.

“Across most consumer media, people want to see representations of themselves in advertising before they start to think this could be something for me or this is relevant to me,” he added.

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One group not represented are cisgender women as Descovy, which was approved in October, is indicated only for use by men and transgender women for HIV prevention. That exception is mentioned by one of the actors in the ad.

While Freeman said the new campaign is not about switching users from Truvada to Descovy, Truvada will face its first copycat competition in 2020. Analysts at SVB Leerink and Jefferies predicted at the time of Descovy’s approval that Gilead would work to get as many people as possible to switch from the first-generation Truvada to Descovy before generic competition in September.