Spotlight On: HIV Stigma

Last month saw the release of the incredible ‘Stigma Is More Harmful Than HIV’ campaign and TV advert, directed by Stuart Langfield which we produced with Stand for Terrence Higgins Trust. An incredibly powerful and important film made with the aim to change and challenge the stigma around those with HIV and the first major TV advert about HIV to air in almost 40 years, which we are extremely proud to have worked on.

The 60 second film explores four scenarios of HIV stigma which have come from real life experiences people in Scotland living with the virus have opened up about. The scenarios include a father pulling his hand away from his daughter after the reveals she is HIV positive, a nurse putting on a second pair of gloves during a hospital appointment, the judgemental glances from staff when service a customer with a positive diagnosis and a man getting an abusive message claiming he is “a joke” due to being HIV positive. The central message of the advert and campaign is that this stigma is more harmful than HIV, and we should learn the facts being that due to the medical advancements and effective treatment which suppresses the virus, people can live a healthy life with the virus and it cannot be passed onto partners.

Here’s what the Director Stuart Langfield said about the process of what went into the making of the advert:

I was in the fortunate position where the agency had already crafted a great concept, which had been thoroughly researched to the point where every character or scenario in the film was based on real experience. So, from the offset we felt confident we were creating something authentic.

During the pitch stage we introduced some threads of dialogue for each character, to bring the scenes to life and give the audience little snippets of extra context about their stories and the types of stigma they were receiving, and to give the actors something more tangible to structure their scenes around.

The hardest part was finding the right balance of emotions in the film. We couldn't shy away from the harsh realities of living with stigma, but we also needed to find a moment of lightness in the middle, to emphasise that a positive diagnosis is no longer the death sentence it used to be.

With these types of films casting is always the most important component, and we were fortunate enough to land on four amazing performers, who all delivered incredibly authentic portrayals of their characters.

Our budget was very lean, allowing for just a single day of shooting. Given we had 4 characters spread across 5-6 locations it was a lot to cram in. The production was thoroughly planned out in advance alongside Leon Brehony, our DOP, and Ollie Hilton, our 1st AD. I’m hugely grateful to the crew for the extra time and hustle they put into this one.

What a privilege to direct this one, the first HIV ad to air on UK TV in almost 40 years.

It was such an honour to play a part in shifting the narrative around HIV diagnosis.

In an article published on the website, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, Richard Angell stated, “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 is 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.” - Read the full article

Thanks again to the team who worked on this one! The end result made all the hard work that went into this worth it and we have loved seeing and hearing the positive responses that have come in following the release of the advert.

Here’s just some of the amazing press the campaign has received:

Gareth Thomas
The Independent
Tackle HIV
Marketing Beat

World AIDS Day 2023 is happening on 1st December so please join us in reading up on the important facts and changing the stigma on HIV