Social Media as a Recruitment Strategy for ULACNet-101: An Influencer’s Story

In November 2021, the UCSF Global Cancer Program launched the first study of the CAlifornia-Mexico-Puerto RicO (“CAMPO”) Collaboration for Prevention of HPV-related cancer in populations living with HIV in Puerto Rico. This is the first clinical trial to be led by the HDFCCC Global Cancer Program and will examine innovative approaches to cervical and anal cancer prevention among populations living with HIV in Latin America. Given the high prevalence of both HPV-related cancers and HIV in Latin America, there is a key need to optimize approaches to screening, vaccination, and treatment in the region. This study is in partnership with the University of Puerto Rico Comprehensive Cancer Center in San Juan, and the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute for Public Health in Mexico. The CAMPO award is part of the National Cancer Institute Division of Cancer Prevention’s US-Latin American-Caribbean Clinical Trials Network (ULACNet) for Prevention of HPV-related Cancers in People Living with HIV.

The below update on the CAMPO program features various recruitment strategies for CAMPO research studies using social media. The below article was originally published as part of the National Cancer Institute ULACNet September 2022 newsletter. Read the NCI news highlight on the CAMPO project below. 


Little is known about social media as an effective recruitment strategy for hardly-reached populations such as persons living with HIV (PLWH). In Puerto Rico (PR), different active and passive recruitment strategies are being implemented to enroll 1,400 PLWH for ULACNet-101, the first of three clinical trials (CTs) under the CAMPO Consortium, including social media. Active strategies include 1) on-site clinic promotion and pre-eligibility by research assistants, 2) outreach phone calls to participants of previous research studies, and 3) provider referrals. Passive strategies involve 1) promoting the study through printed flyers and banners at HIV-specialized clinics, 2) word of mouth by friends, family, and previous study participants, 3) social media promotion through Facebook (@hpvinterestgroup), Instagram (@hpvinterestgroup), Twitter (@groupHPV) and YouTube, and 4) TV, radio and newspaper advertising.

A newly implemented 14-week advertising campaign sponsored by the PR Community Engagement Alliance Against COVID-19 Disparities has allowed us to reinforce our promotional strategies on social media and to establish a formal partnership with the influencer Andrés Vázquez, also known as “Monotrepao” on his online platforms. Andrés, a young man living with HIV with over 25.2k followers on Instagram, is helping to bring awareness in the community to ULACNet-101. Andres uses his platform to raise awareness about the importance of the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. He also aims to reduce HIV-related stigma through his slogan “El VIH se vive y se habla” which translates to, “HIV is lived and talked about.”

Andrés and Dr. Ana Patricia Ortiz, PI CAMPO at the PR site, at a radial interview in WIPR, a local channel in PR.
Andrés and Dr. Ana Patricia Ortiz, PI CAMPO at the PR site, at a radial interview in WIPR, a local channel in PR.

Although his content has made him well-known in the HIV community, Andrés didn’t always have such a prominent following nor thought he would ever be a social media influencer. In fact, when addressed as an influencer Andrés points out that he doesn’t really think he’s an influencer. Instead, he looks at himself as a PLWH who was looking for answers after his diagnosis. Through this search, he has met doctors, researchers, and other PLWH that have provided support and increased his knowledge about HIV/AIDS and how to put his mental health first. He now uses his voice to share everything he has learned, especially with those individuals that may not have the same access to resources that he does.

Andrés became aware of the CAMPO study through a student working with Dr. Ana Patricia Ortiz, the Principal Investigator of CAMPO at the PR site. We initially approached him to discuss if he was interested in working with CAMPO’s advertising campaign to bring awareness to the HIV community about a study that could help prevent HPV-related cancers among PLWH. This was his first time working with researchers and learning about HPV-related cancers. He immediately showed his interest by inviting Dr. Ortiz to do a live session on his Instagram account (@monotrepao) about CAMPO. Since then, he has now become the “face” of this new advertising campaign, for which he has participated in a short-video for the CAMPO study that is displayed on a 15- or 30- second on social media, as well as a non-skip advertisement post on these same platforms.

Sandra García-Camacho, CAMPO Coordinator at the PR site, and Andrés, at a TV interview in “Contigo Siempre” in Canal 13.
Sandra García-Camacho, CAMPO Coordinator at the PR site, and Andrés, at a TV interview in “Contigo Siempre” in Canal 13, a local channel in PR.

Given his increased interest, Andrés also decided to participate in the CAMPO study to be able to share with others the importance of participating in CTs. This was his first time participating in a CT, however, Andres expressed gratitude towards the CAMPO team for being so attentive and answering all of his questions throughout his participation. “They made me feel so comfortable and made sure to explain all of the steps for the procedures. Although I didn’t experience any barriers to participate in this study, I am confident that if I had any fears, the CAMPO team would do everything in their capacity to help.” Andrés has continued to voice his experiences as a PLWH through interviews with local news channels and radio segments in PR. When it comes to health, Andres highlights the importance of being aware and raising awareness. When asked what his message to the community would be regarding the CAMPO study he said, “I want to encourage people to get informed and ask questions. I didn’t know much about HPV and had never been screened for it before participating in this study, even though PLWH are at a higher risk for HPV-related cancers. I feel like there’s always something new to learn, but we won’t ever know about these opportunities if we don’t take the time to talk with others, listen, ask questions, and be open to new things.

We expect that this advertising campaign will help us increase the number of calls and pre-screen potential participants for ULACNet-101 at the PR site. Future analyses will include the evaluation of multiple recruitment strategies on the enrollment rates for ULACNet-101 at the PR site.

This newsletter was supported by: CAMPO (NCI grant #U54CA242646), PR-CEAL (NCI grant # SubOTA 6793-02-S026), and CAPAC (NCI grant #R25CA240120).