GSK goes from risk to reason in new campaign aimed at HIV prevention for Black women

GSK’s HIV-focused ViiV Healthcare knows how to speak to its audience, and usually that audience is men who have sex with men. However, with Black women accounting for nearly 60% of new diagnoses among women within the U.S., ViiV convened a group of Black women advocates, the Black Women’s Working Group, to find a better way to reach this audience.

The result was a drastic shift in the tone and message used to speak to this demographic. As part of ViiV’s Risk to Reasons initiative, and in time for National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (March 10), the pharma has produced a series of three “Risk to Reason” activity books.

By changing the message from the risks associated with contracting HIV, many of which don’t apply to Black women, and focusing instead on reasons to  take precaution, the message is much more amenable.

“In reality, if you are a person who is sexually active in this world, particularly in the Black community, where there's a higher concentration of HIV, particularly in certain locations or in counties that are well well described—if you're living in that area, and you're having sex with with individuals from that region, there's vulnerability,” said Kimberly Smith, M.D., head of research and development at ViiV Healthcare, in an interview with Fierce Pharma Marketing. 

“So you don't have to be doing something unusual, something quote unquote, risky. And so it's reframing risk, taking away this notion of risk of HIV, to now thinking of reasons why a person might benefit from HIV prevention. And so it's changing the conversation to get away from the judgment to open up the conversation to empowering women for that engagement with physicians, empowering women to be advocate for themselves in HIV prevention.”

The workbooks, which can be downloaded here (hardback copies are also available), are broken into three areas: Self, Intimates and Care Providers. The goal is to open up dialogues with the reader, their partners and their HCPs. The third provider book is also a good way for HCPs themselves to see what they should be addressing with patients.

As with a lot of work in this space, there is a big reliance on local community organizations; there’s a focus on the southeastern part of the U.S. because that’s where rates are rising the most.

“We've made the largest philanthropic commitment to HIV prevention for Black women in the US, we gave $8 million to 18 groups who are in communities across the country getting this work out,” Amelia Korangy, external affairs at ViiV Healthcare, said.

“Digitally, we're working on a social media campaign across multiple platforms that bring in different voices and offers specific activities for folks to use and help get the word out. We’re also putting the activity books in the hands of our grant partners—last year, we committed $30 million to community-based organizations, and we're often making opportunities for each of those to use this content with the folks that they serve.”

ViiV’s award-winning “Being Seen” podcast took season three to address Black women and switch the discussion from Black gay and queer men. This work continues that commitment to this group.

ViiV, which markets a host of blockbuster HIV and AIDS drugs, is also one of the most trusted pharma companies in the world, being consistently ranked as the top most reputable pharma company with its focus on social and diversity issues.

Products include the cabotegravir franchise, which comprises the Cabenuva treatment and Apretude for PrEP as well as Dovato, a single pill with two meds.