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HIV Awareness “Discreet Life”


NSW Government



Positive Provocation

The number of HIV cases in Australia is in decline – except in one small group. For men who identify as straight but have sex with other men, cases are up 10%. We challenged NSW health to go beyond standard public health advertising in search of this hard-to-reach audience by using forensic targeting.


We identified a group of men in New South Wales that were at higher risk of contracting HIV; men who have sex with men but identify as heterosexual.  Because they are not connected to the networks of gay-identifying men, this group do not have the same access to HIV prevention methods and testing services.

One defining characteristic of this group is discretion. To their family, friends and communities they are heterosexual. They keep their encounters hidden from loved ones and separate from other parts of their lives, and as a consequence are less likely to test for HIV. In fact nearly half of these cases are ‘late diagnosis’, meaning the patient has been unknowingly living with the disease for four years or more.


We knew that standard targeting tactics would not detect the secret lives this audience goes to great lengths to disguise. So we looked beyond conventional media touchpoints for relevant environments that would reach them in the right context.

It was challenging. Our message had to reach them when they were in the right mindset – when they’re living their second life. At any other time, our audience was likely to put up barriers and deny the message is aimed at them. We could only use media touchpoints that would provide context and discretion.


We identified all the locations where this group typically meet with other men, known as ‘beats’, and collated a comprehensive list of the most frequented across NSW.

By working with location-based data and targeting specialists NEAR to map out the longitude and latitude of each beat location, we could identify men who frequented these facilities.

Armed with this knowledge, we created opportunities to discreetly communicate in contextually relevant beat locations and via niche apps that catered specifically for this community.


The central campaign KPI was traffic to the Dried Blood Sport testing service. At July 2019, after visiting the campaign webpage, there were 1083 unique visits to the DBS website and 147 DBS HIV test registrations.

The click-through rate (CTR) was five times the benchmark and traffic to the HIV testing webpage increased by 1001% YOY.

traffic increase to the HIV testing webpage YOY
DBS HIV test registrations
benchmark CTR

‘Discreet Life’ is an innovative campaign targeting an audience not engaged by contemporary HIV communications. New insights about our hidden target led to an integrated campaign across digital and traditional media that addressed the barriers to HIV testing.

NSW Health

Growth Stories