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National News

Drug Maker Uses Magic Johnson to Advertise HIV Treatment

January 21, 2003

As competition among makers of HIV/AIDS drugs increases, GlaxoSmithKline is using perhaps America's best-known HIV patient to spread awareness among urban blacks of treatment methods and the company's products.

Magic Johnson's image is being splashed on billboards, subway posters and full-page ads in newspapers and magazines. The ads include photos of a robust-looking Johnson and feature messages such as, "Staying healthy is about a few basic things: A positive attitude, partnering with my doctor, taking my medicine every day." The campaign also includes educational ads and a speaking tour by Johnson.

The market leader in HIV treatments with its drug Combivir, Glaxo said its campaign is being conducted in cities with the highest rates of HIV/AIDS infection among blacks, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, Atlanta and Newark, N.J.

The Glaxo campaign is the first of its kind for HIV, which has created particularly sensitive issues of price and profit for the pharmaceutical industry. "The new wave of this disease is moving toward minorities, specifically African-Americans," said Peter Hare, vice president of Glaxo's HIV business unit. "More African-Americans are dying from AIDS than white people. So, from a business perspective, if you want more patients, you have to focus on the African-American community."

Johnson, diagnosed with HIV 11 years ago, does not have AIDS. To maintain his health, he takes a combination of Glaxo and non-Glaxo drugs.

Glaxo and other leading HIV drug makers froze prices last year as a gesture to the AIDS community, but some activist groups are unhappy that the companies are not offering low-cost incentives along with the publicity campaign. "Telling people to get tested and seek treatment and not providing the resources is corporate irresponsibility," said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the country's largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care.

But Marty Algaze, communications director for Gay Men's Health Crisis, said an important first step in reaching blacks is showing that an HIV diagnosis is not a death sentence.

Back to other CDC news for January 21, 2003

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Adapted from:
Associated Press
01.21.03; Alex Polier

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.