The use of social marketing campaigns to increase HIV testing uptake: a systematic review

AIDS Care. 2019 Feb;31(2):153-162. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2018.1533631. Epub 2018 Oct 10.


Social marketing campaigns have been increasingly used in HIV prevention efforts to address barriers to HIV testing. The purpose of this review is to evaluate the social marketing campaigns in the past ten years (2008-2017) that have targeted HIV testing or intent to test as an outcome, and synthesize the results to determine which campaigns work or do not work. The search was conducted using PubMed, Scopus, PsycINFO, EMBASE, and ABI/Inform. The quality assessment tool for quantitative studies developed by the Effective Public Health Practice Project was used to assess study quality. The search generated 373 articles, of which 13 articles met the inclusion criteria. These articles were from 13 distinct campaigns carried out in 9 countries, twelve of which were in high income countries. Sixty-nine percent (n = 9) of the campaigns targeted MSM, gay men, or MSMW, 23% (n = 3) targeted the general population, while 8% (n = 1) focused on African-American women. The study designs for evaluating the campaigns were predominantly cross-sectional, with 4 of the articles combining two or three study designs to evaluate their campaign. Overall, 38% (n = 5) of the campaigns had an increase in HIV testing outcomes, 23% (n = 3) reported no change in HIV testing outcomes, and the remaining 38% (n = 5) of the studies reported mixed outcomes. The results of the quality rating showed that 69% (n = 9) of the papers had weak global ratings, while 31% (n = 4) had moderate rating. None of the articles had a strong rating. This review displayed that social marketing campaigns intended to increase HIV testing uptake were effective in some context. Social marketing practitioners will need to come up with a standardized way of communicating the results of campaign exposure and impact so as to enhance comparison among the multitude of campaigns.

Keywords: HIV testing; Social marketing; campaigns; intention to test.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Bisexuality
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Homosexuality, Male
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Program Evaluation / methods
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities
  • Social Marketing*