HIV Awareness Boosted by "Different" Social Marketing Campaign

Vancouver, November 8, 2011 — Every adult who has not had an HIV test in the past year should have one the next time they have a blood test for any reason. Why? HIV is a very different disease now than it was 20 years ago. An innovative new social marketing campaign wants people to know just how different.
The “It’s Different Now” campaign will use bus shelter ads, a guerilla poster campaign, a website and a corresponding social media strategy to build awareness about how recommendations for testing and the lives of HIV patients have changed over the past few years.

Launched today by Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care, a key goal of the campaign is to encourage all adults to get tested for HIV at their next health care visit.

“The eye-catching ads are compelling, purposefully vague and don’t mention HIV or testing. This is a different approach for our health organization,” says Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Health Officer and the Vice President, Public Health for VCH. “Many people think that HIV testing is not for them. We hope that the ads will lead people to the website,, to learn why an HIV test today is part of good preventive care for all adults.”

One thing that is different now is the method of testing. Beginning in October 2011 physicians began offering an HIV test to all patients being admitted to St. Paul’s and Mount Saint Joseph hospitals and to Medicine patients at Vancouver General, when they have other bloodwork done. Testing will be offered to patients at UBC hospital in 2012. So far, 95 per cent of patients who are offered an HIV test have agreed to have one.

Family physicians in Vancouver are also being encouraged to offer an HIV test to all their adult patients having blood taken for any reason.

“HIV testing based on risk misses many people infected with HIV,” says Daly. “Patients are often unaware of their risk or, if they are aware, don’t feel comfortable talking about it with their health care provider. We are offering tests to anyone who has ever had sex. Routine testing for all adults reduces stigma and improves early detection.”

Earlier diagnosis can lead to earlier treatment, resulting in good health and long, productive lives for patients. Treatment also significantly reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to others.

“Our treatment as prevention research shows that when appropriately treated, an HIV-infected individual becomes more than 90 per cent less likely to transmit HIV,” says Dr. Julio Montaner, Director, BC Centre for Excellence for HIV/AIDS at St. Paul’s Hospital.
Dr. Montaner will be speaking November 26 at TedxSFU, part of a series of international conferences that bring people together to share ideas, about what’s different now in HIV and treatment.

According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), preventing infections also saves money — about $367,000 in lifetime medical costs per patient. A CDC study found that patients with HIV who were diagnosed early in the course of their disease cost $27,000 to $61,000 less to treat than those diagnosed once the disease was more advanced.

These initiatives are a part of STOP HIV/AIDS (Seek and Treat for Optimal Prevention of HIV/AIDS) — a four-year, $48-million pilot project funded by the British Columbia Ministry of Health Services to improve access to HIV testing, treatment, and support services in Vancouver and Prince George, with a goal of identifying innovative strategies to reduce the spread of HIV in BC.

VCH is responsible for the delivery of $2.9 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.

Providence Health Care is one of Canada's largest faith-based health care organizations, operating 16 health care facilities in Greater Vancouver. PHC operates one of two adult academic health science centres in the province, performs cutting-edge research in more than 30 clinical specialties, and focuses its services on six “populations of emphasis”: cardio-pulmonary risks and illnesses, HIV/AIDS, mental health, renal risks and illness, specialized needs in aging and urban health and is home to the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

Trudi Beutel
Public Affairs Officer
Vancouver Coastal Health
Phone: 604-708-5282
Cell: 604-812-1847

Justin Karasick
Director, Communications and Public Affairs
Providence Health Care
Phone: 604-806-8460
Cell: 604-992-2503