Gilead takes HIV prevention message to TV, pushing PreP awareness with hipster ad

Gilead Sciences wants people to get honest about HIV and sex. In new TV awareness ads, actors talk “honestly” about fearing HIV testing and using—or not using—condoms for protection. And one of the newer forms of protection is Gilead's Truvada, the only HIV fighter FDA approved to stave off infection.

The campaign began last week, airing mostly on network and late-night TV, according to data from real-time TV ad tracker

The commercial does not mention Truvada by name but specifically recommends talking to a healthcare provider to “get tested and ask about all your prevention options.”

The five hip young adults featured in the spot address the camera directly from contemporary hangouts including a coffee shop, a sleek retail store and a workout room. They start their sentences with "Honestly," before talking about coming to terms with the reality of living—and having sex—with HIV.

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Truvada was approved for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, in 2012, but Gilead didn’t begin a concerted promo effort until 2016, when the company began marketing to doctors through professional publications, digital advertising and other channels. The company also took up social media, digital media and print advertising in media targeted to the LGBTQ community. In May, the FDA approved Truvada for a new use: reducing the risk of sexually acquired HIV-1 for at-risk adolescents.

Gilead ran a similar awareness ad on TV for about six weeks in 2015. That ad highlighted stats showing 50,000 people have contracted HIV every year since 2003. The spot encouraged testing, prevention and treatment to help diminish those numbers.

The company notched global sales of $3.13 billion for Truvada in 2017, a 12% drop from its 2016 total of $3.57 billion. Its annual report noted that more than 153,000 people in the U.S. were prescribed Truvada last year. Gilead did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

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Gilead has a wide range of 11 HIV and AIDS treatments including its latest, next-generation single-tablet, three-drug regimen Biktarvy, which was approved in February. It competes with GlaxoSmithKline HIV unit Viiv Healthcare's next-gen drugs Triumeq and Tivicay, which recently saw sales drop—possibly because of Gilead competition. One analyst called out Biktarvy as “a key concern” for ViiV and its growth. Gilead is also facing a new lawsuit brought by patients that contends it sat on advanced HIV research to extend its monopoly sales for older treatments.