Evaluation of Social Marketing Campaign to Promote HIV Testing Among Youth

An article in the September issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health presents evaluation results from the first year of a six-city social marketing campaign designed to promote HIV testing among adolescents.

The ACCESS (Adolescents Connected to Care, Evaluation, and Special Services) Project was launched as a multi-city program in 1999 and was repeated and expanded in 2000. The objectives of the project were to change youth attitudes about HIV testing and to promote more routine testing practices to health providers with the goal of improving HIV testing, counseling, and care.

The project used the HIV. Live with it. Get Tested! campaign, a social marketing campaign effort designed to identify and link to care the thousands of HIV infected youth who are unaware of their HIV serostatus. This campaign, which underwent two years of pilot testing in New York City, included the use of marketing materials developed by advertising and health communications agencies by a network of adolescent-friendly counseling and testing sites. It also included community outreach and the promotion of testing materials by youth peer outreach workers.

Participating sites were funded to implement the campaign and were provided standard promotional materials that bore each city’s local contact information. Standard materials included print, radio, and video advertising as well as a youth-friendly “zine,” The Deal, which incorporated HIV messages into presentations of other issues such as fashion, music, and dating. Each site was also given a national media kit.

The lead program in each city built a network of youth-friendly health centers that agreed to provide free counseling and testing services for youth during the campaign and to participate in data collection for the evaluation.

1999 Outcome Results

Phone Calls

  • Five of the six cities in the 1999 campaign reported 2,774 hotline calls in the six months of the campaign. The calls peaked during the period surrounding the Get Tested Week intervention.
  • An analysis of a sample of the calls in New York City found that 50% came from youth between the ages of 13 and 21 and an additional 40% were from young people in their 20s.
  • 64% of youth who called the hotline did so after hearing an advertisement on the radio.

HIV Tests

  • Overall, 3,737 youth were tested at sites participating in the campaign. Of those, 72% were between the ages of 13 and 21, and 28% were 22 to 24 years of age; 60% were female and 40% male; 38% were African-American, 30% Latino, 24% White, and 8% Asian or other.
  • Of the 3,158 tested youth reporting sexual orientation, 17% self-identified as gay or bisexual, with the remainder self-identifying as heterosexual.
  • Of the youth tested, 46 were identified as HIV infected.

Community Surveys

As a supplemental evaluation, a community survey was conducted among youth approached on the streets in New York City.

  • 381 surveys were completed at baseline and 565 were completed after Get Tested Week.
  • 90% of youth surveyed after Get Tested Week had seen an advertisement telling young people about HIV testing compared to 68% at baseline.
  • Of youth who had seen an ad, 71% surveyed after Get Tested Week said it made them think testing was good compared to 51% at baseline.
  • 83% of youth surveyed after Get Tested Week had knowledge about where they could go for HIV testing compared to 70% at baseline.

2000 Preliminary Results

In 2000, the campaign was conducted in five cities. Analysis of outcome data for 2000 is not complete; some information is, however, available.

In addition to redesigned materials, a Web site (http://www.HIVgettested.org) was created. In its first five months of operation, the site logged a total of 106,000 hits with its hits peaking at 36,681 during the period surrounding Get Tested Week.

In addition, a new national toll-free line (1-888-HIV-TEST) was established. In two months, the line logged 972 calls.

The authors conclude that the results from the first year of the Project ACCESS campaign have demonstrated its potential as an effectve tool for reaching adolescents about HIV risk behaviors, prevention, and testing. They go on to say that future efforts must target outreach to the most vulnerable youth and expand messaging and evaluation to include measurable prevention objectives.

For more information, D. Futteman et al., "The ACCESS (Adoelescnts Connected to Care, Evaluation, and Special Services) Project: Social Marketing to Promote HIV Testing in Adolescents, Methods and First Year Results from a Six City Campaign." Journal of Adolescent Health, 2001; 29S; pp. 19-29.