How we brought people living with HIV and their doctors closer together

In 2019, 923 Belgians were diagnosed with HIV, a retrovirus that weakens the immune system. These people can generally count on effective treatment, but it sometimes comes with side effects. These are symptoms that many patients link to their illness, and not to the medication they are taking. And that is exactly why pharmaceutical company MSD asked for our help. An awareness campaign about the possible side effects of HIV treatment, with the aim of evaluating the treatment and thereby helping to improve the target group's quality of life.




An awareness campaign for people with HIV and healthcare professionals


A creative concept, translated into an empathetic video

About MSD

MSD (known as Merck in the US and Canada) is one of the world's leading biopharmaceutical companies and has been contributing to the improvement of global health for over 130 years. To this end, MSD develops medicines and vaccines; but it also takes the lead in research and prevention in the field of cancer, infectious diseases, and animal diseases. Together with MSD, we also developed an awareness campaign around melanoma.

The challenge

Many people with HIV consider weight gain, feelings of depression, sleeplessness and lipid disorders to be normal consequences of their disease, when in fact they are not. They often do not feel well, but are more likely to link this to their disease than to their medication, while in some cases it is in fact this medication that causes the symptoms.

MSD asked iO to set up a campaign that would make the target groups — both patients and general practitioners — aware of the possible link between symptoms and treatment.

The objective

The aim of the awareness campaign was to motivate both patients and GPs to enter into dialogue with each other and, if necessary, to discuss the current treatment; to evaluate it and adjust it if necessary. As such, our awareness campaign has the potential to indirectly improve the quality of life of HIV patients.

The method

HIV treatment may not guarantee a carefree life, but tailor-made treatment can significantly increase the likelihood of bearable symptoms. We translated this thought into a concept:

You have HIV and you don't feel well?
Talk about it with your doctor.

The red balloon symbolises customised treatment as an opportunity for the target group to reduce their symptoms. The possible way out that was there all along, but which they simply could not see — until someone with knowledge showed them the way.

The emotional aspect is a trigger. It's just that little push that the target group needs to take the step. And for a message to land, you need a medium that amplifies emotion. That is why we chose video as the primary format.

In addition, you must be aware of where your target group is and how you can reach them. The right message must be sent on the right channel at the right time. Therefore, we set up a carefully designed flow with a landing page for each target group as the central hub. To lead them there, we created advertisements on social media, posters, an email campaign, etc. Always with a positive message and imagery. The problem was always the starting point, but the possible solution was the focal point.

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