Background: In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched Act Against AIDS (AAA), a national communication initiative designed to refocus attention on HIV/AIDS in the United States. The current AAA portfolio consists of multiple social marketing efforts, including several HIV testing campaigns targeting populations disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, including African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men.
Program background: CDC is presently in the process of developing a broad effort to reach all adults aged 18-64 with HIV testing messages, while maintaining discrete messages and outreach strategies for the high-risk populations that AAA efforts currently target . This abstract describes an activity conducted as part of the formative research process to inform this effort and describes important findings to aid in understanding how to best reach the multiple audiences, possible segmentation strategies, and what competing or complementary messages are circulating in the sociocultural environment.
Evaluation Methods and Results: We conducted an in-depth environmental scan of 15 existing screening and testing campaigns for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as other prominent social marketing campaigns. Using a combination of published literature and online desk research, a profile summary was generated for each campaign based on the campaign sponsor/agency; partners/co-sponsors; timeframe/duration; funding; target audience; campaign goals; theory; key messages and concepts; creative elements; strategy and tactics; channels; and impact/outcomes. The campaign summaries were then used to facilitate a content analysis to identify patterns and unique characteristics that were further examined, identifying broader communication strategies and approaches, underlying theoretical constructs, and/or communication tactics that hold the most promise for guiding development and execution of a general audience HIV testing campaign.
Conclusions: Many of the campaigns drew upon the following theoretical approaches and communication strategies: social normalization; social movement or community organization theory; personal risk assessment; reliance on peers to deliver information and promote healthy behaviors; the use of “umbrella campaigns” to reach a broad, general audience; and fear and shock appeals. Additional research is warranted on the utility of messaging that includes information or data to help audiences assess their risk and on the effectiveness of fear/shock/threat appeals.
Implications for research and/or practice: Key considerations when developing a general audience HIV/AIDS testing campaign include: 1) exploring strategies and approaches that use peer-based models and allow audiences to join or partner with the campaign; 2) using themes of empowerment, togetherness, and inclusion to create a community that supports and champions testing; 3) integrating constructs from the Social Cognitive Theory, the Social Movement Theory, and the Health Belief Model; 4) conducting efforts to normalize HIV testing; and 5) fostering partnerships across private sectors to reach general audiences.