How Do You Do It? Australian HIV Campaign Puts Emphasis on a Combination of Ways
Meet Tom, Dick and Harry. Sydney-based health promotion organization ACON's current campaign singles out different men who "do it", but who opt for different ways of protecting themselves. Australia's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people organization aims to stay in step with its community by redefining HIV prevention.
"We all have notions of what safe sex means, but we wanted to reflect actual behaviour among gay men and other men who have sex with men," said ACON Chief Executive Officer Nicolas Parkhill.
Safer sex now means condoms, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), an undetectable viral load or a mix, he explained.
"ACON's challenge was going from the tried and true condom reinforcement only image to a much more complex combination prevention message," Mr Parkhill said.
The campaign also stresses the importance of respecting a partner's choice. "There should be no shaming of people who still use condoms," Mr Parkhill said. In addition, he says, the combination prevention message speaks to people who are HIV-negative and people living with HIV.
In the campaign video, three men explain how they practise safer sex. One "does it all the time" and opts for condoms, while another says he "does it daily" by taking antiretroviral medicines and achieving an undetectable viral load. A third "does it every day" by taking a daily dose of PrEP.
The scenarios are based on men within the community, but ACON gave them the Tom, Dick and Harry placeholders of unspecified people. The AUS$ 500,000 #YouChooose campaign includes posters, billboards, videos, on-the- ground events and materials distributed to health clinics.
In existence for more than 30 years, ACON's aim is to end HIV transmission among gay men and other men who have sex with men and promote the health of LGBTI people and people living with HIV. The organization is primarily funded by the New South Wales Government and works closely with the New South Wales Ministry of Health.
"The government values the voice of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community in helping define what the HIV response needs to look like," Mr Parkhill said.
UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Luiz Loures agrees. "Communities need to be at the centre of initiatives for success in HIV prevention and ACON in Australia is putting key populations exactly at the centre," he said.
And by having the community involved, Mr Parkhill says, the campaign goes beyond posters on bus shelters. "We are building a movement for gay men and the broader lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community that believes we can put HIV behind us, and we have the science and technology available to do that."