First HIV TV ad in 40 years says stigma is ‘more harmful’

Terrence Higgins Trust has unveiled a poignant advert tackling the stigma around HIV – nearly 40 years after the infamous tombstone ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance’ campaign.

Showcased across out-of-home (OOH), press, social, online messaging and airing on Scottish TV, the charity said it was time for an ‘overdue update’ on the new medical progress in the fight against HIV.

The 60-second TV advert runs alongside OOH’s which feature large bold yellow text that reads, ‘Stigma is more harmful than HIV’, with a call to action to learn more about the facts at the HIV stigma website.

Developed in partnership with NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Public Health Scotland, University of Strathclyde, Waverley Care, Our Positive Voice and Scottish Drugs Forum, the advert was produced by award-winning Scottish agency Stand

The OOHs, which depict the close of up of individual’s faces, are also accompanied by a message that points out the common misconceptions about HIV, and reminds that the virus is treatable.

Terrence Higgins Trust has unveiled an advert tackling the stigma around HIV -nearly 40 years after the tombstone 'Don't Die of Ignorance' TV ads, depicted here


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The campaign, which follows figures that show how stigma is now more harmful than HIV because of the huge medical progress, will air just before Coronation Street, one of the channels most most-watched shows.

Developed by TBWA, the original 1980s public health campaign is most remembered for its distinctive 40-secondTV ad which showed the creation of a gigantic black granite tombstone.

Alongside the gravestone advert, a number of smaller ‘softer’ campaigns ran as well – such as tailored leaflet messages for people such as dentists or tattooists.

“We had to inform people and reassure them – we didn’t want hairdressers shutting down because suddenly people were scared of catching something from scissors,” said the campaign designer Malcolm Gaskin, speaking to the Guardian in 2017.

“We also had post marked by Royal Mail with the campaign slogan. I know some people didn’t like that – receiving a letter from their auntie with “don’t die of ignorance” stamped on it.”

Terrence Higgins Trust chief executive Richard Angell added: “The government’s Aids awareness advert in the 1980s undoubtedly saved lives, but it also cast a long shadow by terrifying a generation about HIV.”

“That’s why it is high time we update everyone’s knowledge about the incredible progress that’s been made in the fight against HIV over the last 40 years by bringing it back into millions of living rooms.”

To help bring the campaign to TV screens, Terrence Higgins Trust utilised STV’s Championing Charities initiative to make TV advertising more accessible for charities of sizes.

It is also part of the STV Growth Fund, which sees the broadcaster match fund investment from charities and offers free creative advice and support.

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