Johnson & Johnson refreshes 'Positively Fearless' HIV campaign with a new digital presence and LGBTQ+ ambassador

Johnson & Johnson is boosting its “Positively Fearless” HIV campaign as it looks to break the old stigma attached to the disease whilst boosting its outreach into the LGBTQ+ community.

The unbranded campaign for HIV drugmaker J&J dates back to 2020 but is now getting a major refresh, Danielle DeFeo, communication and public affairs leader, HIV at Janssen Pharmaceuticals, explained in an interview.

“We have a redesigned digital presence, we've engaged in new and exciting public engagements, and we have a new ambassador,” DeFeo said. The biggest addition is Octavia Lewis as the campaign's ambassador.

"Octavia brings warmth, humanity, and a level of compassion rooted in lived experience to everything she does, including advocating for the rights of members of the trans community," DeFeo said.

In addition, she's an "activist, advocate, humanitarian, scholar, and—most importantly—a mother," DeFeo added.

Lewis joining as the campaign's first transgender ambassador “allows Positively Fearless to authentically consider the wants, needs, fears, concerns, and hopes for a better tomorrow for the trans community, the larger LGBTQ+ family, and all people living with HIV," DeFeo said.

J&J also redesigned and relaunched the campaign website by incorporating the "values of representation, uniqueness, and the power that comes when individuals work together,” the company told Fierce Pharma Marketing.

“We designed the new site to feature real stories from our advocates and other people living with HIV,” DeFeo explained. “We replaced stock footage and generic assets with real stories about the challenges and the triumphs our advocates face in their lives.”

The site also features resources that visitors can use to help self-advocate in conversations with families, friends, and health care professionals.

But the refresh isn't meant to take anything away from the original intent of the campaign. “Our reasoning behind Positively Fearless remains the same since day one: redefining what it means to live with HIV and showing those living with HIV that it's possible to live a positively fearless life-practicing self-love, self-care, and self-advocacy.”

J&J markets a number of HIV treatments including its new Cabenuva, a long-acting HIV treatment from ViiV and Johnson & Johnson that keeps the virus at bay with a monthly injection instead of a daily pill regimen. That drug won FDA approval last year.

The company has also been working on a potential HIV vaccine though it hit a roadblock last year when a phase 2 trial of the shot failed to protect women against the disease, following previous disappointing results from other pharmas including Merck in this space.

J&J believes the fight against HIV—and the stigma often attached to it—remains a major battle. “Stigma still exists in many social, cultural, and political circles and, unfortunately, extends to healthcare settings,” DeFeo said.

Aside from its own campaign, J&J has also just taken part in a nationwide ad campaign as part of USA Today's inaugural PRIDE publication. USA Today distributed the inaugural edition via traditional hardcopy and digitally and worked with several celebrity partners to amplify the edition's reach via social media.  

This coming fall, J&J plans to continue its partnership with USA Today via its annual Race in America special edition “to examine the challenges associated with medical mistrust, particularly within the black and brown LGBTQ+ community, with a particular emphasis on how that mistrust affects the trans community," DeFeo said.

This publication will receive a push from celebrities including Common, Venus Williams and Halle Berry.