After discovering through a survey that 95 million people incorrectly believe they can contract HIV simply through touch, Bensimon Byrne set out to debunk that perception for Casey House, the Canadian hospital for those with HIV and AIDS. Late last year, the agency created a pop-up spa called Healing House, where a group of HIV-positive therapists gave out free massages and facials. Journalists were invited to book appointments and spread the word as part of the #SmashtheStigma campaign.
Just like a similar endeavor from 2017—an HIV-positive restaurant—the effort accomplished its goal of overcoming some of the stigma associated with the disease—even without media dollars behind it. The campaign generated some 360 million media impressions and a flurry of social activity in Canada.
According to follow-up surveys, 85 percent of those who booked massages said they felt more compassion for HIV patients, while 77 percent said their beliefs had been changed.