Putting HIV out there: NGO Life Support Group & Ogilvy Brazil

The NGO Life Support Group and Ogilvy Brazil (GIV) have launched a new awareness campaign in an attempt to dispel some of the prejudice and misconceptions associated with HIV. Stark, white posters with vivid red text have been strung up around the city of São Paulo. Each poster contains a drop of HIV positive blood.

The idea for the campaign is innovative, radical and controversial, but the CCO of Ogilvy Brazil has stated that the campaign is supported by medical research which reveals that HIV cannot survive outside of the human body for more than one hour. Certainly, the posters are intended to shock people and push them to physically confront the realities of an illness that is frequently masked by stereotypes and fear.

The posters were created using blood samples from nine volunteers and the whole process was supervised by a doctor to ensure safety measures were met.

A video accompanies the posters, including testimonials from HIV sufferers and first-hand footage of the overwhelmingly positive response the poster received on the streets. The poignant ending to the video states “If prejudice is an illness. Knowledge is the cure.”, driving home the aim of the campaign once again.

Whilst the campaign was only launched in Brazil, the impact of its message has resonated with people all over the world. Thus, we asked our UK community to describe their reaction to the campaign and whether they thought it had altered their perception of the disease and those who suffer from it.

We received a flood of positive video responses championing the power of the campaign. It was described as an ’emotional’, ‘hard-hitting’, ‘upsetting’, ‘eye-opening’ and undeniably ‘human’ campaign. Respondents felt that they had been made to recognise the naivety of their understanding of the illness. Many claimed they had previously thought that HIV was easily transferred through any form of bodily contact and admitted they were afraid of coming into contact with the virus or sufferers.

“It’s heart-breaking and it definitely makes you want to help.” (Joni, 36, Vlara)

“A lot of people wouldn’t like the idea of there being blood on there, but it highlights that people aren’t at as high risk as they think they are.” (Ruth, 35, Basingstoke)

“Instead of just saying that the blood cannot harm you after it has been outside the human body, it literally puts it right in front of you and proves it.” (Josh, 25, Barnett)

Others sheepishly admitted they had never considered that HIV sufferers were ordinary people just like them. The campaign enlightened them to the universality of the illness and consequently showed them they could relate to and empathise with sufferers.

“You actually see the person rather than the illness.” (Pete, 41, Denbigh)

“It shows you that HIV sufferers do not conform to the stereotype and that’s something that needs to be addressed more” (Suzanne, 40, Sutton)

“People with HIV need support and they don’t need people to have negative opinions of them or to be segregated.” (Alexandra, 20, Kingston upon Hull)

Many also stated that they previously had the impression that HIV sufferers only had a life expectancy of a few years. Yet, the advert demonstrates how sufferers can live long and productive lives thanks to treatment.

“Until recently, I just thought that you got HIV and died very quickly, but that’s not the case.” (Andrew, 34, Edinburgh)

Moreover, many people admitted that they had subconsciously inhibited some prejudices and stereotypes about the disease themselves. People discussed how the disease was frequently associated with homosexuals, drug users and those living in third world countries. The poster and video campaign by GIV had dispelled many of these misconceptions and taught them that anyone can catch the disease.

“The idea is very brave, very powerful. I didn’t know much about HIV before. I remember being very afraid of it in my youth when it first broke out. I think it’s educated me, it’s allayed some fears. So it has changed by perception.” (Alan, 48, Tamworth)

“I grew up in the ‘dark ages’ in terms of knowledge about HIV, where it was thought you couldn’t even touch some one who was HIV positive. it’s quite embarrassing to think about that given what we know now.” (Gary, 47, Wadebridge)

On the other hand, a minority of respondents were sceptical about the campaign. These respondents thought that the campaign was possibly too radical and might actually evoke more fear amongst the public because it physically placed the illness within their reach. Some respondents admitted that they personally felt uneasy by the campaign because they feared catching the virus.

“I don’t like the idea that they’re using HIV positive blood – it makes me feel a bit queasy” (Paula, 40, Liverpool)

Others argued that using real HIV positive blood was an extreme and melodramatic way of presenting the message. They felt that the posters alone, minus the blood, would have a greater impact.

“It’s a bit of a radical idea” (Max, 23, Hastings)

“It seems like a gimmick and it’s probably offensive because it’s too in your face.” (Abi, 34, Dronfield)

“It’s a misguided attempt to educate people by shocking them.” (John, 40, Belvedere)

Overall, our research suggests that the campaign is set to have a phenomenal impact upon people all over the world. It educates people about the reality of living with HIV, which ultimately will help to alleviate the stigma surrounding the disease. It demands that people question their own prejudices and encourages them to transform those prejudices into empathy.

“It’s a great idea. Anything that reduces the stigma and change the opinion of what people think about HIV is great” (Gareth, 33, Nottingham)

Find out more about the campaign by watching the video below: