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Jul 1, 2006

Hello Doctor Bob, I was wondering if are familiar with the website After examining it my initial impression was that it's primarily designed to encourage people to practice safer sex guidelines by showing the most unsavory effects of living with HIV and taking medications. I'm certainly all for encouraging this as life with HIV can still be quite challenging for many. On the other hand, the individuals and information represented on this site I feel portray the most extreme of the potential side effects. My concern is for the newly diagnosed who are searching for information and hope online and wind up seeing the horrors depicted on this site. I feel it can be psychologically detrimental and continues to perpetuate the notion that *all* HIV+ individuals will suffer a smilar fate and become seriously ill and disfigured due to medication side effects. This site has been publicized recently on a satellite radio talk show and although I respect and appreciate the message they are trying to spread, how accurate and possibly over amplified do you think the information contained on this site is? It is very disturbing.

Thank You & take care.

Response from Dr. Frascino


The "HIV Not Fabulous" campaign was created by Better World Advertising, which is based right here in San Francisco. The program, which was launched in December of 2005, is funded by a three-year grant from the CDC and underwritten by the Los Angeles County Office of AIDS Programs and Policies. Certainly its primary target is young gay men engaging in risky sexual behavior who are unaware of the consequences of HIV. The campaign is designed to dismiss the perception that living with HIV/AIDS is as simple as popping a pill.

There is no doubt this project generated a response. It got people talking, which, at least on some level, is a good thing. Certainly better than the all too prevalent apathy and indifference we have seen over recent years. It also sparked a backlash from some HIV-positive men who complained the graphic images tended to:

1.) re-enforce stereotypes of HIV positive people and

2.) shame people living with the disease.

There is no doubt our HIV-prevention messages are outdated. Young gay men really don't listen to the "just say no to sex" or "use a condom" messages. I can certainly understand why this campaign is divisive. Certainly it's difficult to stigmatize a disease without stigmatizing those who are living with that disease. It's tool early to tell if the campaign is effective or even resonating with the target audience. If it works, I'll never argue with success. However, I have seen what I would consider better, more balanced prevention campaigns in other countries. I would suggest we consider importing some of those!

Dr. Bob

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