The ubiquity of social media has created duality in health promotion. Raising awareness through traditional tabling methods remains crucial, but no campaign is complete without a visible online presence. Social media allows healthcare providers to overcome barriers in disseminating information to patients, and can also drive patient uptake for organizations like Fenway Health. Fenway Health is a healthcare, research, education and advocacy organization in Boston, Massachusetts whose mission includes serving the LGBTQ community. As social media grows more integrated in daily life, some providers have evolved their digital strategy to reach new audiences. Ricardo Holguin, the Bilingual Outreach Navigator at Fenway Health, has revolutionized outreach to the Latinx MSM (Men that have Sex with Men) population by developing an approachable persona on Snapchat.
Holguin built his campaign with a federally funded grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The grant’s name is “Llegando a Cero,” which translates to “Getting to Zero” in English. This project was awarded to Fenway Health to enhance targeted outreach, social media marketing, and on-the-ground navigation services in order to help increase awareness of HIV and substance abuse prevention services, in part through the creation of Holguin’s current position as Bilingual Outreach Navigator. “Many campaigns adopt a very serious tone which can scare people away,” Holguin notes. “I asked myself how I could best engage with 18-24-year-old Latinx MSM.” Holguin knew that the best way to spread information is through social media, but he wanted to create something different. After weeks of deliberation, Holguin had a genius idea: Revolución con Don P. “Condom in Spanish translates to condón,” Holguin explains, “I separated the word and realized it translates to ‘with Don.’ In Spanish, Don is the male form of a courtesy title placed before the first name of someone as a way of showing respect. The name Don P is a play on words. Revolución Con Don P means ‘Revolution With Condoms.’” The “P” in Don P is variable, it can mean prevention, precaution, or even PrEP.
Don P is the face of Holguin’s social media campaign, which spans across Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and dating apps such as Grindr. The persona primarily targets young Latinx MSM , a population that’s disproportionately affected by HIV. Research from the CDC projects that “one in four Latino gay and bisexual men will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetimes.” Holguin’s goal is to reduce the stigma surrounding HIV while providing them with links to needed services. The anonymity and transience on Snapchat provides Holguin’s followers with a sense of privacy and freedom, emboldening them to ask questions they may otherwise feel uncomfortable asking.
Holguin acquires followers through word of mouth, but he also spreads awareness of Revolución con Don P by attending outreach events in person. As he began attending more events, Holguin realized he needed a memorable way to stay in touch with people. Fenway Health already provides safe sex kits, but Holguin needed something that included information about where people can get tested. Holguin says that “as I began researching potential options, I found Say It With A Condom! It was exactly what I was looking for.”
After enlisting their services, Say It With A Condom connected Holguin with Gilberto Perez, the manager of the company’s graphic design team. “What I like about Ricardo is that he knows exactly how to approach the target demographic,” says Perez, “I found that his Snapchat campaign is a great way to interact with young people.” Benjamin Sherman, the founder and CEO of Say It With A Condom, remarked that “We’ve worked on a lot of campaigns, but this one is something that’s really special and what I hope will be very successful. It’s a lot different than everything else that has come to us or that we’ve designed.” The design, which includes Don P’s snapcode image on the back of the trifold, makes it easier for Holguin to gain followers.
“If people don’t want to give me their information, I have them follow Don P on Snapchat and let them know that they can always speak to him confidentially,” says Holguin, “Once that happens, I can build rapport with them and gain their trust. The more I start posting, the more people relate to the content.”
The Don P condoms have already helped drive patient uptake. “People love the engagement,” says Holguin, “I get lots of people asking where they can get tested. Fenway Health has already had an influx of Latinos aged 18-24 coming in for testing since we launched the campaign.” Holguin hopes that by providing a space for people to engage his health expertise anonymously, he’ll be able to prevent risky behavior. Additionally, the campaign was created to bring more resources to the large population of Spanish speakers throughout Boston. By providing culturally sensitive care, Don P is able to confidentially connect more people from the Latinx MSM community to the resources that they need to protect their sexual health.