Proving the impact of first-person storytelling for PrEP uptake in Black and Hispanic Communities
Despite major advancements in HIV prevention and treatment, communities of color make up a disproportionately high number of new cases. Especially Black, Hispanic, and Native American communities.
A major contributor to this unequal impact is the imbalance of PrEP use across demographics. PrEP is a medication that can prevent HIV infections. Despite no-cost prescription programs, the uptake of this preventative medication among communities of color lagged behind the national average.
The “I’m Ready” campaign, created for the US Department of Health & Human Services, used first person storytelling to increase representation by featuring the stories of real PrEP users.
Encouraging Black and Brown communities to take charge of their sexual health through access to no-cost PrEP through the Ready, Set, PrEP program for those without prescription drug insurance.
We know that first-person storytelling works to support positive HIV outcomes. We wanted to go beyond the campaign metrics and learn about HOW it worked. Specifically how these stories informed an individual’s decision to start, or stay on, PrEP.
We conducted qualitative research, specifically in-depth interviews, with members of our key audience who had engaged with the campaign.
Among other findings, thematic analysis revealed that much of our audience:
- Had existing knowledge of PrEP.
- Perceived that PrEP was not for them because they did not see themselves reflected in PrEP messaging. Early on in PrEP marketing, stigma around sex and less varied representations of gender identity and race/ethnicity kept many from considering this protective measure.
These themes demonstrated that first-person storytelling, specifically the kind used in the “I’m Ready” campaign, affected audience perceptions in four key ways:
- Meaningful representation increased relevance of the message
- This same representation made audiences more receptive
- Addressing emotions mitigated health literacy challenges
- Stigma about taking PrEP can be eased through relatability to the featured stories
Our research revealed that first-person storytelling can impact each stage of an individual’s PrEP journey. The decision to take PrEP is complex, incremental, nonlinear, and takes time.
Historical and contemporary injustices make this decision especially complex for LGBTQ+ communities of color. For Black, Hispanic, and Native American audiences, having stories that resonate in-market invites these communities to first see themselves as a potential PrEP user, then reflects the possibilities along the stages of a complicated behavior-change process. Complementing existing PrEP education campaigns, encouraging more PrEP users, and protecting more people against HIV.