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One Word That Almost Ruined The HRC PrEP Announcement

In a rare gaffe, the powerful LGBT advocacy organization, Human Rights Campaign, quickly altered their HIV PrEP materials.  But the take away speaks even more about their integrity and the importance of ending HIV stigma.

Full disclosure here folks, I am an HRC supporter.  I’ve also been a committed monetary donor for several years, supporting their advocacy work politically and organizationally. With that said, I also do not allow that support for them or any nonprofit to get in the very real patient advocacy work commitment that I made to myself and proudly align my social activism towards.  Simply stated: if any organization misses a beat in the HIV space, regardless of my favor towards them, I have to call them to carpet to discuss it.  I take my role as a patient advocate very seriously and work hard, sometimes quietly, to advance the important issues that those of us living with HIV need help to change.

I’m absolutely thrilled and humbled at the degree of access that I was given within the Human Rights Campaign and their eagerness to consider, discuss and eventually modify recent campaign messaging for a pretty large announcement they made:  their endorsement of PrEP.

Yes, we all know, even though some naysayers of the HRC ignore it, that they have been present in the HIV/AIDS awareness discussion for years.  We also understand, and from an arm’s distance acceptance, that their position was one that took more time than many of us wished it had taken for them to come out and throw support behind an HIV prevention pill: PrEP.  Ultimately, I find their timing to actually be very helpful in the greater scheme of the way that the national PrEP conversation is going.  I believe their release comes at a very important time and it is perfect.  Disagree or not, we can all agree that their endorsement matters.

But, did you know that the campaign that is currently being utilized is actually different than what they initial released?  Let’s see if you can spot the difference:  (left image was originally released, the right image was the revision of the campaign)

HRC PrEP Campaign Revision

See the difference?  “Why this pill can SAVE your life”  and “Why this pill can CHANGE your life.”

It is only one word changed, but it represents a fundamental on-going issue for those of us living with HIV.  As far as I can remember AIDS campaign messages, they are usually associated with “needing to be saved” or “not killed.”  The headline “why this pill can save your life” is well-meaning, but it also gives the alternative impression that HIV is something that is deadly — which is in and of itself in conflict with “HIV isn’t a death sentence.”

I wish I could take the credit for catching this importance difference, but actually it was someone within my social media community that said something to the effect of: Whoa! What a minute!!!  It is stigmatizing.  And I agreed.

After connecting with the leadership at the Human Rights Campaign and sharing the feedback I’d be given and agreed with, I wasn’t exactly sure the reply or response I would receive.  Again, it was not a campaign-ending mistake, but it would be something that prevented someone like me from sharing the campaign and messaging.

What I received was something beyond amazing and their swift alteration of the campaign materials shows that the HRC has a backbone, really wants to continuing being a leader in HIV/AIDS awareness discussions, and can do it with an eased humbleness that others may not even see or acknowledge.  But I will.  Listen, we all mess up– individuals and nonprofits.  But our character is built upon the ability to make it right.   Today, I am praising the decision of the leadership of the HRC and congratulating them on all the work they’ve accomplished on a wide range of issues.

When I inquired for a statement and reasoning to changing the campaign, here was their reply:

Fred Sainz HRC

“It should always have been phrased and presented like it is now.  The issue of stigma is real and consequential. Our work should always inform and our messaging be aspirational. The last thing we want to do is unconsciously reinforce behaviors that have no place in our country.”

                     – Fred Sainz, VP, Communications & Marketing, Human Rights Campaign (HRC)


Thanks for showing us all how to lead by example in a humble and meaningful manner and thank you for the leadership you exude in sparking conversations that matter– conversations that are making living with HIV even more possible and successful!

To learn more about the Human Rights Campaign HIV/AIDS work, click here.

To read the powerful endorsement of PrEP, click here.

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