Pilot Award Recipient: Sarah Calabrese, PhD

Dr. Calabrese picture

Optimizing PrEP Social Marketing to Black MSM in DC to Raise Awareness and Uptake

January 11, 2017
This one year pilot pilot award will study PrEP social marketing to Black MSM in Washington, DC. A daily pill called PrEP protects against HIV and could be useful to Black men who have sex with men (BMSM) in DC who are at risk. Public health campaigns have been developed to make BMSM aware that PrEP is an option. These campaigns often include pictures of BMSM next to messages about PrEP. It is not yet known how BMSM feel about these campaigns and whether they work. It is possible that including pictures of BMSM on PrEP posters, billboards, and other materials could feed into unfair social stereotypes about BMSM being sexually risky, especially if the pictures focus on BMSM’s physical bodies and sexuality. Thus, it is important to find out what BMSM think about these campaign pictures and whether the pictures impact their interest in PrEP and use of it. The proposed project includes 3 phases and involves 824 different BMSM who are HIV-negative, have sex with other men, are 18+ years old, live in the DC area, and have not used PrEP. In Phases A and B, participants will be shown pictures from real-life PrEP social marketing campaigns. There are 12 pictures, and they differ as far as how sexual they are: a little bit sexual vs. somewhat sexual vs. very sexual. They also differ as far as who is in the picture: a BMSM couple vs. a Black heterosexual couple vs. multiple diverse couples vs. no couples. In Phase A, 200 BMSM participants will take a 1-time online survey. In the survey, each participant will be shown the 12 different PrEP marketing pictures, 1 at a time, and report their thoughts and feelings about each. In Phase B, 600 BMSM participants will first take an online survey. In the survey, each participant will see 1 of the 12 PrEP marketing pictures (selected at random) and then report how interested he is in PrEP and whether he plans to use it. Every 2 weeks for the next 8, he will be sent the same picture over text and email. At the end of 8 weeks, he will take another online survey, during which he will report whether he has tried to learn more about PrEP and started taking PrEP. The researchers hope to learn whether it is possible to recruit a lot of sexually active, HIV-negative BMSM in DC and whether they will stay in the study for the full 8 weeks. In Phase C, results will be used from Phases A and B to create a list of recommendations for how to improve PrEP social marketing geared toward BMSM. Researchers will meet with 4 groups of BMSM (4-6 men per group) to get input on the list. A finalized list will be shared with the PrEP social marketing team at the DC Department of Health to improve future campaigns in the local community, sent to social marketing teams elsewhere, posted online so that the general public can access it, and published in a scientific journal.