PHOTOS: PrEP marketing campaigns get homoerotic. It’s about time.


Shirtless lucha libre Mexican wrestlers diving into bed are part of a colorful new print ad campaign promoting “health and sex” for Gilead Sciences, the pharma maker of HIV prevention drug Truvada.

“The imagery is intended to be inclusive of our key audiences and to communicate, playfully, the idea of aspiring to have a healthy sexual relationship. Young Black and Latino men, as well as trans women, are among the populations we are trying to reach, as HIV disproportionately impacts these communities,” Gilead’s Ryan McKeel tells Queerty.


Although the unbranded ads from Digitas Health Life Brands don’t mention Truvada — the only approved HIV preventative drug used in Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) — they advocate knowing your “prevention options” and encourage a visit to HealthySexuals.com, which links to Tumblr “for easy sharing, engagement and commenting,” McKeel says.


Meanwhile, in January the Los Angeles LGBT Center plastered billboards with a more bluntly worded message, “F**k w/out Fear. PrEP here.” The billboard follows a similar 2015 poster campaign in Australia from Melbourne activists with the message, “You can f**k raw. PrEP works. No more HIV.”

Launched in the US in August 2004, Truvada is now a blockbuster drug with annual domestic sales of $2.4 billion, but it has had little branded advertising support. Gilead started supporting Truvada with advertising late last year, but print ads contained little imagery other than the blue pill.

A new, branded “Truvada for PrEP” campaign is expected to launch this summer, McKeel adds.

After the Centers for Disease Control endorsed PrEP in 2014, PrEP therapy has been marketed by state, city and county health departments because the drug has proven effective in driving down the rate of HIV infections dramatically.

Last year, New York City’s health department introduced its second PrEP and condoms campaign, called “We Stay Sure” and featuring diverse couples. Ads still appear prominently in Times Square, on city buses and elsewhere. NYC’s first PrEP ads were introduced in 2014 under the theme “We share everything but HIV.”

Earlier, Gilead supported a 2015 video campaign from Public Health Solutions called Time2PrEP that included a young man who proudly proclaims his adherence to PrEP and his passion for gay sex (Truvada is not mentioned).

Another 2015 awareness campaign from Gilead emphasized 50,000 people every year contract HIV and dramatically illustrated the number with a baseball stadium, 150 jumbo jets and 500 Ferris wheels. It included a male couple holding hands and mentions that “treatment can help stop the virus” or that “you can protect yourself from the virus” if you don’t have it.

Michael Wilke has covered LGBT issues in advertising since 1992. He is the founder of Commercial Closet/AdRespect.org, and Senior US Consultant for LGBT marketing and diversity firm Out Now.

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  • ErikO

    PREP/Truvada is extremely toxic and people who are on it just use it as an excuse to bareback anyway.

    • ChrisK

      The only thing toxic is you.

    • surreal33

      Mr Eriko is right! Side effects of prep include kidney damage and bone mineral density issues. As with most drugs design as a quick fix, the makers of Prep conveniently omit kidney damage and bone damage from advertisements for the drug. The narrative of Prep is a miracle drug that allows gay men to be irresponsible and enjoy as much unprotected sex as possible. Unlike the fantasy which Prep peddlers promote the reality is you can’t have unprotected anal intercourse without consequences. The responsible marketing would be to position Prep as one tool in an arsenal to prevent HIV. The arsenal must include condoms, testing, and Prep. Please love and protect yourself if you don’t I can guarantee no one else will.

    • GayMafiaKingpin

      To be fair, nearly all prescription medications list numerous side-effects, some of which include death. You can’t act as though Truvada is poison when it’s really no worse than any other medication. Even my asthma and diabetes medications have side-effects.

      Regardless of whether people use it as an excuse to bareback — which I assure you, most are barebacking anyway — it still helps in preventing acquiring HIV. This will mean fewer infections which could help lead to a point in which the virus no longer exists years down the line.

      The real issue is that people just are sick of condoms. They’re not sexy. Guys will look for any excuse not to use them. So stop blaming Truvada. Take responsibility for your own sex life and wear a condom whenever you have sex and you won’t have to worry about whether or not anyone else is. Then you can stop sex-shaming and STI-shaming.

    • passingthru

      I think that I’ll just trust my doctor who, you know, does have a medical degree, to understand about PrEP rather than lame Queerty commenters’ “expert” advice. I’ve been on PrEP for over a year. My doctor is very careful about watching for any harmful possibilities. I see him every three months. Regarding condoms, I can only speak for myself; I don’t feel a need to judge others. I have not had sex without a condom since I have been on PrEP. However, I don’t worry about condoms breaking which has been very stressful in my past. Regardless of how people approach the drug, if it saves lives, I think that it is a very good thing. I can think of many lives lost who might still be here had this been available much sooner.

    • seaguy

      So if you’re having bareback sex and just not likely to be able to change that in your life then seeing your doctor who can run tests and giving PrEP a try and learning what side effects you MIGHT get seems much less toxic than getting HIV which once you get it, You have to then take truvada or other antivirals to keep the virus at undetectable levels for the rest of your life. So your now stuck taking those toxic meds in order to live longer because without them your HIV will progess to AIDS and you’ll eventually die. So I would rather try and keep from getting HIV by taking a medication that my doctor and me will closely monitor for its possible side effects so that if necessary I can stop taking it before it does harm to my body.

      Some men for a number of varied reasons are just not going to use condoms all the time so for them PrEP is not an excuse to bareback they don’t need an excuse it is the sex they want to have and they use PrEP as a tool in prevention for HIV. I hate the pharmaceutical companies but it serves no good purpose to spread falsehoods or misinformation about PrEP by referring to it in the most extreme negative terms when the scientific data shows its not “toxic, causing kidney damage and bone mineral deficiency” in all of those who take it. So really all that does is cause men to continue to bareback no protection at all from HIV. We all know where that leads. So this misinformation campaign is just as responsible for new HIV cases as anyone else.

    • frankcar1965

      Its none of your business what two adults do behind closed doors, self-hating people like you probably revel when someone becomes poz. Nasty perv.

  • Eldred

    I really love the magazine photos, and especially the Luchador one. Super cute.

  • Bob LaBlah

    Who said the condom wouldn’t one day be reinvented? That’s clearly what has happened.

    • frankcar1965

      Except let’s not forget all the straight people who procreate and spread HPV but NONE of them are beating themselves over their heads. They just keep F**king and spreading it around. Go figure.

  • Prax07

    I don’t know, I avoid guys that list the fact that they use prep as a selling point on their profiles. To me that’s a new way of saying that they’re promiscuous and could possibly have diseases. I’ve also talked to a few guys on the apps that are hiv+, on prep, and are looking for guys to bareback. Yeah, no thanks.

    • seaguy

      It’s not called PrEP when someone takes Truvada to treat their HIV. It’s only referred to as PrEP when truvada is taken by someone who is HIV negative because it is being used as a form or Prevention in that case. Many of those who use it as a selling point were previously barebacking without anything other that serosorting to try and prevent themselves from contracting HIV, whether they are promiscuous or not is open to interpretation but it is felt that being open about taking PrEP at least says hey I bareback but I am taking something to prevent HIV so if your like me and going to have bareback sex regardless you might as well have it with me where you have one STI that you pretty much don’t have to fear getting. For some that fear can become overwhelming and make sex completely scary and unenjoyable. PrRP users are often more educated about their sexual health than others because of the conversations with thier doctor as part of the process of getting it prescribed. gay men who are education can then make more responsible informed decisions about their sexual health. Which is better for all in the end.

    • frankcar1965

      Fine, then don’t do it and stay out of people’s bedrooms!!!!

  • Aromaeus

    Gay media lover to remember gay people of color exist when they want to talk about HIV awareness but cast us in a more flattering light they will not.

    • seaguy

      There are numerous PrEP campaigns targeting communities of color. There probably needs to be more but we all know Trump won’t have that in his budget. Sometimes the reality is not flattering. In the case of men of color many are having unsafe sex and contracting HIV as a result at higher levels than whites so they are using online ads to target gay latino and black men but running the ads and websites they frequent and social media they use. Targeted ads are only shown to the targeted audience. So to one person it might seem that communities of color are being forgotten when it comes to PrEP but then you ask gay men of color they might tell you they are sick of seeing those damn PrEP ads always coming up when they use Grindr. The campaigns are often done on the local or state level and this not national so they are not as likely to make the news.

  • Mike Wilke

    Actually, studies have shown that African-American gay and bi men don’t engage in riskier sexual behavior. They have smaller social circles. Because HIV rates are higher among black men, gay and bi black men are more likely to pair up with someone who is HIV-positive. For example, one study found that white gay men in Atlanta needed to meet seven sex partners to have a 50% probability of meeting someone HIV-positive, whereas black gay men needed only 3.5 sex partners.

    And health departments have historically done a better job of demonstrating racial diversity in their ads than corporate advertisers, although we now see this changing.

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