While there have been significant increases in awareness of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in recent years, uptake remains relatively low in populations most impacted by HIV – particularly young men who have sex with men (YMSM). This may partially be attributed to the lack of conversations between eligible individuals and their providers about PrEP and sexual health in general. Many major cities have launched campaigns aiming to address gap by using sex-positive messaging to empower individuals to be proactive in seeking out a PrEP prescription. In 2016, the citywide PrEP4Love campaign launched in Chicago. The campaign depicted racially diverse couples with catchy phrases (‘Spread Tingle’) in a variety of settings, including bus stops, fliers, and bar coasters. The campaign linked interested parties to additional information about starting PrEP, including a list of providers in Illinois.
RADAR is a longitudinal cohort study of YMSM to investigate multilevel factors associated with HIV infection in Chicago. At baseline, participants reported being assigned male at birth, aged 16-29 years, and either identified as LGBT or reported sex with another man. Between June 2017 and April 2018, additional questions were added to the core survey regarding awareness of the PrEP4Love campaign.
75.9% of the 700 people responding to PrEP4Love questions had seen the ads in at least one location. Most saw them online (57.8%), at pride events (50.7%), through friends (35.0%), or at a healthcare provider’s office (32.0%).,Participants who saw PrEP4Love ads were significantly more likely to have used PrEP in the prior 6 months (OR = 1.87; 95% CI: 1.15, 3.16). Further, those who saw PrEP4Love ads were nearly three times as likely to have spoken with a healthcare provider than those unaware of the campaign (OR = 2.77; 95% CI: 1.93, 4.00), and twice as likely to have initiated this conversation (OR = 2.07; 95% CI: 1.15, 3.85).
A multimedia PrEP campaign in Chicago was effective at reaching populations at greatest risk for HIV – YMSM. Seeing ads for PrEP4Love was associated with provider conversations as well as PrEP initiation, two major outcomes for the campaign. Although the impact of citywide campaigns can rarely be evaluated, we saw evidence for the success of PrEP4Love. To encourage PrEP uptake among at-risk populations, other jurisdictions need eye-catching and continuous campaigns similar to Chicago.