Your Demand Creation Campaign Strategy
Audience: This is the target population that you are looking to target, or speak to, with your PrEP communications campaign.
This segment of serodiscordant couples (SDC) is aware of their discordance (that one of them has HIV and the other does not) and have had their relationship disrupted by it in some way.
They may be experiencing blame over who brought HIV into the relationship, disconnection around sex, and/or discouragement around conceiving. The discordance has been so disruptive for some that they now face the “discordance dilemma.” They see the avoidance of HIV transmission at odds with preserving their relationship. Other couples endure the discordance out of love and commitment, but the risk of HIV transmission is still disruptive, complicating the things they want and value in their relationship—intimacy and children.
SDC relationships are interrupted by HIV.
Problem: The core problem you are trying to address.
For SDC, enrolling in PrEP is often perceived as more burdensome than helpful. Bringing up PrEP may resurface undesirable, negative feelings associated with the discordance, such as blame, guilt, and even violence.
In visiting an HIV clinic, SDC risk disclosing their discordance to others, and partners without HIV risk being mislabeled as HIV positive. And taking PrEP may bring on undesirable stigma from others. Thus, when SDC compare PrEP to other HIV prevention tools like condoms, many struggle to be convinced of its relative effectiveness and appeal.
PrEP—not worth the extra hassle.
Strategic idea: The most powerful idea that can address the problem.
PrEP brings you closer together without the fear of HIV.
Support: Reasons that support the audience’s belief in the strategic idea.
- Be together with peace of mind, even when one partner is not yet virally suppressed: PrEP offers an extra layer of protection and can help while the partner with HIV transitions onto antiretroviral therapy (ART) and is not yet virally suppressed. That means you can continue to be together and be intimate without the stress of possible infection with HIV. The value of having sex without this worry cannot be underestimated.
- For those wanting to conceive, you can safely take the next step in your relationship: With the help of PrEP, you can rest assured that you’ll bring HIV-free children into the world and that the uninfected partner will stay protected from acquiring HIV at the time of conception and during pregnancy.
- When used correctly and consistently, PrEP is proven to be highly effective in reducing one’s risk of
- PrEP is recommended for HIV-negative men and women in SDC.
- Because PrEP doesn’t protect against STIs, it should be used together with condoms.
- PrEP does not protect against pregnancy.
Channel Recommendations: Community
- Printed materials: Posters and leaflets can be disseminated around the community at places of worship, social gathering places, and community meetings.
- IPC: Communicate with other SDC who use PrEP, and with healthcare providers. Target locations frequented by SDC, such as places of worship, schools, microfinance groups, and community meetings. Also host seminars, social gatherings, and counseling and support groups.
- Mobile technologies and SMS/texts: Among SDC interviewed during one study in Kenya, 99 percent had access to a cellphone, and 66 percent of those had access to a smartphone. 1 Mobile engagement methods such as WhatsApp and SMS may be effective for making first contact, arranging in-person contact, and giving support and advice.
- Social media: Social media engagement, such as with Facebook, can be used to communicate with SDC to broadcast information and advice, identify new potential clients, and cultivate discussion and community.
Tips for Connecting with Your Audience
- Common interests: SDC interests include listening to music, watching TV, listening to the radio, spending time with family, going to church, and following the news. 1
- Where they go for care and information: Currently, the main sources of sexual and reproductive health information for SDC are radio, TV, health centers, doctors, and social and counseling groups. 1 When asked how they think PrEP should be communicated to people like themselves, SDC in Kenya suggested many of these same channels, with the addition of seminars, social media, newspapers, and talks at church. 1
- Educate about HIV transmission: Misconceptions about HIV transmission are common. For example, SDC may not know what “virally suppressed” means. It may be important to inform SDC about this kind of information. 2
- Educate about the benefits of PrEP and how it works: In market research conducted in 2017 by OPTIONS in Kenya, many SDC surveyed did not yet believe that PrEP worked. This indicates a need for education on how PrEP works and how effective it is, in order to address any doubts.
SDC have reported numerous emotional benefits of taking PrEP, which can be highlighted. These include having an extra layer of protection (if/when in doubt), demonstrating a shared commitment as a couple, reducing stress and preserving the relationship, improving intimacy, and returning to normalcy and hope. 3
- Engaging men is critical: Many people associate PrEP as being “just for women” or “only for men who have sex with men.” Thus, communications and interventions can target heterosexual men and emphasize that PrEP is also for them. 2
Engaging men is critical in women’s decisions to take and adhere to PrEP. A partner’s preferences have a powerful influence on whether a woman uses a product. Further, when the HIV-negative partner in an SDC discloses PrEP use to their partner, it has been shown to improve acceptability and adherence. 4
- Clear up misconceptions about PrEP in an SDC: Many SDC may be turned off by the idea of PrEP, as they may assume they will need to take it forever. The idea that the HIV-negative partner needs to take PrEP only until their partner is virally suppressed (through the use of ART) may be important, new information to share. 2
Some SDC may not understand that PrEP needs to be taken every day. Even after learning about PrEP, some SDC still believe that they will “build up an immunity” after taking PrEP a few times. Communications should emphasize that the HIV-negative partner in an SDC must take PrEP daily until their partner is virally suppressed. 2
- Emphasize PrEP’s benefits for couples to encourage adherence: To encourage adherence, it may be effective to emphasize that PrEP can be something good for the couple. PrEP use facilitates support for each other, as each partner supports the other in adherence, and brings the two closer together. 2
HIV prevention interventions generally focus on the individual. However there may be several advantages to using a couples-based approach. It may allow for mutual recognition and responsibility to protect each other and stay healthy, it aids in the creation of a safe environment in which to discuss and deal with sensitive topics, and it increases commitment to change. 5
- Engage through family planning: Because contraception is a priority for many SDC, reaching them through family planning, contraception, and fertility services may be effective. If possible, clinics may consider offering more integrated sexual and reproductive health services to address a more holistic set of SDC concerns, and these topics can be used to draw SDC into the PrEP conversation. An example of a clinic doing this is Senkatana ART clinic in Lesotho. 6
- Educate on technicalities: Due to the complex nature of PrEP and HIV risk, transmission, and prevention, as well as the high priority placed on conception, SDC may benefit from nuanced information on these topics.
- Provide couples-based voluntary counseling and testing: By providing couples-based voluntary counseling and testing, both partners may be encouraged to reduce risky behaviors, improve sexual safety, increase their HIV knowledge, and get tested. 5
- Engage other PrEP users: Other SDC who are PrEP users can communicate effectively about PrEP. One study in Kenya found that when previous PrEP users shared their experiences, it reinforced the decision to use PrEP. When possible, clinics should offer peer interaction as part of service delivery, as this may increase initiation and continuation of PrEP. 3
- Reach men: Explicit strategies to reach men may include door-to-door male education outreach, men’s barazas (community meetings held by village leaders), or outreach at churches, schools, and football matches. 1
- Engage SDC: Offering other services, such as support groups, counseling groups, social gatherings, seminars, and informational talks, can create opportunities for encouraging PrEP uptake and adherence.
OPTIONS. OPTIONS Market Intelligence Report: Kenya. Source. Published November 27, 2018. Accessed December 22, 2018.
End-user testing interviews for the OPTIONS PrEP Communications Accelerator. 2018.
Ngure K, Heffron R, Curran K, et al. I Knew I Would Be Safer. Experiences of Kenyan HIV Serodiscordant Couples Soon After Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Initiation. AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2016;30(2):78-83. doi:10.1089/apc.2015.0259.
Ware NC, Wyatt MA, Haberer JE, et al. What’s love got to do with It? explaining adherence to oral antiretroviral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV-serodiscordant couples. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2012;59(5):463-468. doi:101097/QAI.0B013e31824a060b.
Jiwatram-Negrón T, El-Bassel N. Systematic review of couple-based HIV intervention and prevention studies: advantages, gaps, and future directions. AIDS Behav. 2014;18(10)1864-1887. doi:10.1007/s10461-04-0827-7.
Akintade O, Tiam A, Sole M, et al. Pre-conception support for couples living with HIV: A strategy to reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission (MTCT) at Senkatana antiretroviral therapy (ART) clinic in Maseru, Lesotho. Poster presented at the 21st International AIDS Conference 2016; July 18-22, 2016; Durban, South Africa.