Today we know that HIV is treatable. And we know that for someone with well-functioning treatment, the risk of transmitting the virus to others is practically non-existent. But how do we tell the world this? How do we make people listen? 

KIT, a new Swedish digital media company distributing primarily on social media, embarked on a campaign to inform and educate viewers on the topic.

Ignorance and stigma

It has been more than 20 years since we started treating HIV as a chronic, treatable disease instead of a death sentence. In Sweden, we’ve come a long way. Sweden was the first country in the world to achieve the 90-90-90 goal set forth by the U.N., an ambitious treatment target calling on countries to reach the following goals by 2020:

  • 90% of all people living with HIV should know their HIV status.
  • 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection should receive sustained anti-retroviral therapy.
  • 90% of all people receiving anti-retroviral therapy should have viral suppression. 

Despite the tremendous success in treating HIV, the ignorance, stigma, and fear surrounding the disease is still massive and too many people carrying the virus are still being rejected because of prejudice.

“For many people diagnosed with HIV infection the fear and stigma is worse to live with than the actual disease in itself,” said Malina Flodman, communication strategist at The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Rights (RFSL).

In addition, most Swedes who are infected with HIV today get  it from someone who is unaware of his or her HIV status. Therefore, it is crucial to raise HIV awareness. It is never easy, however, to start a discussion on such a controversial topic.

KIT's videos approached a difficult topic with easygoing conversation delivered in a warm and positive way.
KIT's videos approached a difficult topic with easygoing conversation delivered in a warm and positive way.

Getting people to talk

The biggest challenge when talking about HIV is to get people to actually listen to the message and engage in the discussion. The stigma surrounding the disease seems to affect the willingness to talk about the matter.

“Weve often experienced that people are very hesitant to even talk about HIV, and the fact that its a treatable disease,” Flodman said.

This is why RFSL turned to KIT to put together a campaign to enlighten and educate homosexual and bisexual men between the ages of 18-40 on the two topics:

  1. HIV-infected people with well-functioning treatment do not transmit the disease during sex.
  2. Most people who get infected with HIV today get it from someone unaware of HIV status.

KIT came up with the concept “Ta Steget,” or “Take the Leap,” wanting people to actually take the leap and either get tested themselves, or dare to be involved with an HIV-positive person.

Through research on tonality and editorial intent, based on our previous content, we found that the videos should have a positive and warm tone, a clear objective, and factual approach to break through all the noise on social media.

To achieve this, we filmed two videos containing men talking about non-infectious HIV in an easygoing, uncomplicated, and likeable way, with a positive and warm attitude. We wanted the videos to be informative, but not berating. We distributed the videos on Facebook to a custom target audience, with branded content posts on KITs Facebook page.

The campaign surpassed our expectations:  

  • In less than a week, the videos had been delivered to the estimated number of viewers.
  • After 10 days, the number of viewers had tripled.
  • When the two-week campaign was over, video deliveries surpassed initial estimates by 200%.
  • There was a 2.05% click-through-rate to the RFSL site.
  • RFSL reported that a drastic increase of downloads of its HIV-report during the campaign.

“The videos were exactly what we wanted. We received loads of positive feedback and made a statement in an ongoing debate. We are proud of this campaign,” Flodman said.