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.