GSK CEO Emma Walmsley delivers a personal, behind-the-scenes touch for HIV awareness

It’s not often you see a Big Pharma CEO as one of the leading faces of an awareness campaign, but GSK’s chief Emma Walmsley is doing exactly that with the company’s new “Getting Ahead Together” video series.

In the latest video, launched on LinkedIn, we see Walmsley talk with HIV patient Jorge about his condition. Jorge, a teacher, therapist and healthcare advocate, is sitting on a sofa with Walmsley, telling her that he was diagnosed with HIV at a very young age and that it “was devastating for me.”

With the interview split, we then see some of the behind-the-scenes work, including how the video shoot was undertaken. We also see a clip of Walmsley hugging Jorge. 

The main point of the content is to show the difficulties in coming to terms with a HIV diagnosis. The video also shows how medications, many of which GSK and partner ViiV Healthcare market, can help HIV patients not just stay alive but live healthy lives while keeping the disease at bay. There is no direct mention of the companies’ products in the video.

The six-minute video is part of GSK’s “Getting Ahead Together” video series that has seen the GSK chief talk on careers in STEM and about the benefits of vaccines.

This latest video feels more personal and opens a curtain on how they are made, something we don’t often see with Big Pharma leaders.

She spoke of GSK being in the HIV business for 40 years and those early days of the disease, in the 1980s, “where communities were terrified and treatment options were bleak.”

Walmsley says that in the 1990s, the first-ever funeral she attended was for “a truly brilliant friend who died of AIDS in his twenties,” and again speaks of the very “grim” time HIV and AIDS patients had.

“Today, happily, is a very different story,” she says, and notes the work of GSK and ViiV that has helped shape a brighter future for HIV patients with their drug and prevention products.

Speaking with Jorge, he recounts as a young gay man with HIV, “I just lost myself in that diagnosis … and I didn’t know what I was going to do.”

But, with the help and support of his mom, he decided to take control and find a path forward and is now a therapist.

Walmsley adds that the “truly extraordinary” work in science has also had its part to play in Jorge’s story, who himself adds that he is “so grateful” for these advances that let him "live my life, at my pace, free of HIV shame and stigma.”