Johnson & Johnson has partnered with LGBTQIA+ media organization Equal Pride to celebrate 10 ‘HIV heroes’.
The 10 individuals have dedicated their professional lives to advancing HIV/AIDS education, eliminating stigma and misinformation about the virus, and supporting the Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U) movement. J&J announced the winners ahead of the AIDS 2022 conference held earlier this week in Montreal.
Since the beginning of the first HIV efforts in the 1980s, advocates have played a leading role in the fundamental changes that paved the way for scientific progress, according to Dr. Brian Woodfall, vice president of clinical development worldwide at Janssen.
Although these advocates may have been seen as “problematic” decades ago, Windfall believes that opinion changed during the 1990s and 2000s – and as a result it is now widely accepted that overcoming HIV will require input from all stakeholders, not just regulators. and the pharmaceutical industry.
Windfall noted that when developing HIV drugs, drug companies invited advocates to sit on advisory boards to review protocols and help create clinical trials.
“It was a time when it became a partnership and a collaboration,” he recalls.
The common thread running through the 10 HIV Heroes, according to Windfall, is their patient-centered approach to fighting the disease. Moreover, they share a certain resilience to overcome challenges, such as barriers to accessing care and prevention services, in their local communities.
Windfall said the marketing community has a role to play in the fight against HIV, especially in raising awareness.
“Celebrating the work that people are doing and having hope for the future – these are tools that raise awareness and hopefully reduce stigma,” he stressed. “It shows the human face of people working in this field.”
Stuart Brockington, executive vice president of brand partnerships and integrated sales at Equal Pride, agrees, adding that amplifying the voices of advocates and researchers should be a central part of the communications strategy around HIV and AIDS. He called the partnership with J&J “inspiring”, noting that it recognizes leaders and shares stories that contribute to meaningful change. Just ten years ago, he said, the public’s perception of HIV was very different from what it is today.
“What we’ve seen is a shift from clinical representation to representations of dynamism, hope and resilience,” Brockington explained. “We know that as we move forward each year, there are more innovations, technologies and stories that encourage and help inspire change.”
As for the U=U movement, Brockington noted that one of his priorities is to communicate that if the virus is undetectable in someone living with HIV, then it is not transmissible. This message removes the stigma associated with HIV, he said, and urges countries around the world to roll back HIV criminalization laws.