“HIV Test? I’m on it!” Using Social Marketing to Reach a Diverse Population in Santa Clara County, CA

In 2014, an estimated 44,073 people in the United States were diagnosed with HIV. About 1 in 8 people with HIV in the United States does not know that he or she is infected. Gay and bisexual men continue to be hardest hit by the HIV epidemic. Nationally, 1 in 4 Latino gay men are projected to be diagnosed with HIV within their lifetime.

In Santa Clara County, California, there were a disproportionate percentage of new HIV cases among Latinos and African Americans, particularly men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) between 2006 and 2012.

To address the high rates of HIV and STDs among these groups, JSI was selected by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department to develop a social marketing campaign to increase HIV testing among the county’s diverse population of 1.2 million people.

Focus groups provided key insights from our target audiences about what would make a compelling HIV testing campaign. One finding was support among participants for messages that framed testing as something routine, like going to the dentist. With this in mind, we developed the HIV Test? I’m On It! campaign. The campaign tagline is meant to normalize routine HIV testing and address barriers, such as fear of getting tested.

The campaign was first implemented in 2013 with a focus on Latino and African American MSM, as well as African American women. The campaign included print materials, social media, radio ads, bus shelter and billboard ads, and promotional items distributed by community partners. The campaign generated an estimated 32 million impressions (non-unique) over a 2-month period.

Between 2013 and 2016, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department detected an increase in HIV cases among Latinos, particularly men between the ages of 20-49. Latinos were also more likely to be diagnosed late across all racial/ethnic groups and had the highest rates of STD infection.In response to these trends, the Public Health Department engaged JSI to update the I’m On It campaign in February 2016 reflect the need to reach young, Latino MSM.JSI added messaging about STDs to broaden the campaign and included new images featuring Latino MSM.

The campaign’s communication channels included bilingual radio ads on Pandora Radio; social and digital media on Grindr Facebook, and the Univision mobile app; and promotional materials distributed with the help of community partners. All of the campaign materials directed individuals to the Santa Clara County’s Public Health Department’s website (www.GetTestedSCC.org) for information about where to get HIV and STD testing.

To spread the word about the campaign, JSI partnered with a community-based organization called Project MORE Foundation to host three outreach nights at gay bars in San Jose. Outreach staff gave out “protection packs” that came with branded condoms, lubricants, and stickers. There was also a photo booth where patrons could take pictures with the campaign backdrop.

In a one-month period, the campaign had an estimated 4.6 million impressions (non-unique). There was increased web traffic to the campaign landing page, and most importantly, there was a higher volume of HIV and STD testing during the campaign period.

Overall, the I’m on it campaigns represented a successful partnership between JSI and the local public health department to promote HIV and STD testing in Santa Clara County. Digital marketing enabled more robust targeting to Latinos, with Facebook and Grindr being the most successful channels in terms of reach and generating website traffic.

Clear communication influences behavior, leading to healthier outcomes. And at JSI, we partner with our clients to develop compelling messages that resonate with the populations they are trying to reach. Learn more about our extensive health communications work or view other case studies.