GSK's ViiV turns to Black women's experiences in latest season of award-winning podcast

As with many diseases, Black women disproportionally bear the brunt of HIV. In 2019, 80% of new diagnoses were in women of color. GSK’s ViiV Healthcare tackles that disparity and more in season three of its award-winning podcast, “Being Seen.”

Hosted by Tony-award winner Anika Noni Rose, season three switches to highlighting the perspective of cis and trans women and the issues facing Black women today, including in the HIV community.

“We had the two fantastic seasons on men, but it was more than time for us to do the same for Black women,” Marc Meachem, ViiV’s head of external affairs for North America, said.

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“Being Seen” is once again produced by ViiV’s creative partner Harley & Co. The aim for season three is to provide a way to “address how self-definition and representation are crucial to reducing stigma and erasing dangerous stereotypes, especially with regards to HIV.”

With topics such as power, desire, responsibility and laughter, the 10-episode podcast attracts important Black female names such as actor Taraji P. Henson, author Roxane Gay, musician Ledisi and “Pose” star Dominique Jackson.

“I think one of the things with these projects is that we've been able to continue to pull in different incredible creatives into the project on the basis of the work that we've done earlier. So it's kind of like ‘tell a friend’ and ‘this is fantastic’—that's how we're able to engage these wonderful talents like Anika,” Meachem said.

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The same love of the project and “tell a friend” vibe extends to getting the word out to listeners; everyone involved is excited to post and tweet to let others know about the podcast. In addition, there has been interest from mainstream media outlets including an article in “Variety” and Rose appearing on “Live with Kelly and Ryan” to talk about the podcast.

Despite the focus on Black women and HIV, Meachem says the podcast is for everyone.

“I think when people access things in literature, in stories—which is why we have storytelling throughout human history—it resonates at a different level and allows you to think through issues and access them in a way that's powerful," Meachem said, which he thinks could lead to change, perhaps more so than one-on-one conversations.

ViiV Healthcare is a joint venture between majority owner GSK plus Pfizer and Shionogi and is focused on HIV. Cabotegravir, already approved to treat HIV, is inching toward being a pre-exposure prophylaxis option as well. An FDA decision is planned for early in the new year.

Cabotegravir's FDA approval to treat HIV came in January, and it is used in conjunction with Johnson & Johnson’s rilpirivine. The resulting treatment, known commercially as Cabenuva, is injected every other month, instead of daily pills.