A new campaign for National HIV Testing Week

Posted 09 Feb 2023

Date: 09 Feb 2023

Author: Takudzwa Mukiwa

National HIV Testing Week (NHTW) started on Monday 6 February 2023. This year, a new campaign, ‘I Test’, replaces the long running ‘Give HIV the finger’ campaign. After five years of a successful run for ‘Give HIV the finger’, many might be wondering why a new campaign was introduced this year. Takudzwa Mukiwa, Head of Social Marketing at the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), explains in this month’s Sexual Health, Reproductive Health and HIV Policy eBulletin eFeature, the reasons for the change and how the new campaign was developed. Taku leads on the NHTW campaign for HIV Prevention England, the national HIV prevention programme funded by the UK Health Security Agency and delivered by THT.


Relevance and action  

Some of the main challenges in the development and delivery of a campaign are to ensure that it feels relevant, captures attention, and leads to the desired behavioural outcomes amongst the target audiences.   

For National HIV Testing Week, the primary target audiences are gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM), and heterosexual people of Black African ethnicity (BA). This is due to how both groups are disproportionately affected by HIV.  

While there might be similar concerns here and there when it comes to HIV and testing in the two communities, it is well documented that there are attitudinal and behavioural differences when it comes to HIV. The challenge for HIV Prevention England has therefore been to deliver campaigns that work for both these audiences.   

Audience insights 

In the summer of 2022, we conducted audience insights research to help us understand how to keep the message of HIV testing relevant to both audiences. Conducted for us by Kantar Public, the audience insights work involved looking at the findings from the annual evaluations of previous NHTW campaigns, desk research, and conducting fresh qualitative research. This was consolidated with extensive user involvement in creative development.  

The findings from audience insights research which had been running for five years, showed that despite the success of the campaign over the years, there was growing fatigue, increasing complacency, and a growing sense of lack of relevance particularly amongst heterosexuals. It was also clear that the focus of ‘Give HIV the finger’ on ease of testing wasn’t particularly adequate for audiences who think that HIV is not relevant to them. 

As a result of these findings, we embarked on a creative development process to find ways to improve ‘Give HIV the finger’, or to adopt a different campaign dependent on audience feedback and social marketing considerations.  

Not throwing out the baby with the bath water  

When ‘Give HIV the finger’ was developed, nearly six years ago, it scored highly in focus groups and surveys amongst both audiences on relevance, catching attention, and inspiring people to get tested. It was therefore important that we did not ditch everything in the creative development, but rather learn from it. 

Through focus groups, we established the following creative principles to guide us in development:,  

  • Empowering – The central focus of the campaign should be empowering, as all audiences agreed that sexual health is an individual’s responsibility. 
  • Positive and attention grabbing – a positive and vibrant visual to catch attention.  
  • Authentic relevance – Depict the communities authentically to drive relevance. An emphasis on ensuring the depiction of authentic and diverse looking models.  
  • Normalising testing – more of a challenge for heterosexuals, to ensure that testing for HIV is understood as a normal thing to do.
  • Clear language 
  • Likelihood of driving action  

Adopting a more flexible campaign 

The challenge, of course, is that it is never easy to develop a single campaign that works perfectly on everything for both gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men, and heterosexual people of Black African ethnicity. However, running a single campaign is essential for National HIV Testing Week, as it would be impossible to have the same national impact with two different campaigns with different creatives running concurrently.  

After user testing, the new ‘I Test.’ campaign was adopted as it scored well on all the creative principles set out at the beginning of the creative development. It was also favoured for its flexibility to focus on more specific motivations for testing in specific audiences. Additionally, with changing technologies in HIV testing and the increased use of oral swab test for self-testing, it wasn’t tied to a particular way of testing. Feedback from stakeholders also indicated that a more flexible campaign was their preferred choice as they can adapt messaging to local need.  

What you can do this National HIV Testing Week  

Published in the February 2023 edition of the Sexual Health, Reproductive Health and HIV Policy eBulletin.  The content of all eFeatures represents the views and opinions of the authors. FSRH and coalition partners do not necessarily share or endorse the views expressed within them.