Edelstein Z, Kharfen M, Kim M, Tsoi B, Salcuni P, Gamble T, Cutler B, Branson B, El-Sadr W. Use of awareness raising campaigns to expand HIV testing: experiences in the Bronx, NY and Washington, DC (HPTN 065 study). Journal of Social Marketing.
Purpose Awareness raising campaigns have been used to promote HIV prevention messages, including the expansion of HIV testing, but initiating such campaigns de novo can be costly. Both the Bronx, New York and Washington, DC have significant local HIV epidemics and a history of efforts to scale-up HIV testing. To build on prior HIV testing campaigns and create new messages based on consultation with diverse stakeholders, a partnership with a community-based clinical trial to enhance HIV testing and treatment was established. The purpose of this paper is to describe the history of HIV testing campaigns in the two jurisdictions, the awareness raising conducted in collaboration with the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) study (HPTN 065) and provide evidence of its effect in these two communities.Design/methodology/approach The foundation of prior campaigns allowed for expansion of social mobilization efforts to specific priority populations (gay men and other men who have sex with men), the most severely affected groups in both communities, and to expand the efforts to include clinical settings. New compelling and acceptable messages were shaped through engagement with community members and based on input from focus groups with target populations in each city.Findings By engaging the target population in the development of new messaging, HPTN 065 study successfully built on campaigns that were already underway in both jurisdictions and was able to use those messages and platforms to further normalize HIV testing.Practical implications Modifying and adapting existing messages saved time and resources, which can be important factors to consider in settings with limited resources or high media purchasing costs.Originality/value Efforts of this kind may ultimately help to decrease HIV transmission in large urban settings.