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HIV prevention commercials

Feb 5, 2011

I have been seeing these horrific ads about HIV that are being aired recently where they go into detail about how you "don't get just HIV" and how you can get dementia, anal cancer etc. It is usually late at night and I have to change the channel. They put me into "rage mode" where I literally feel like harming some young HIV - young twink who see himself as having his entire life in front of him. I have even discussed this with one of my younger neg friends he tells me "you can't blame others or yourself for what happened you." I cannot stop obsessing. I was never a drug addict, promiscuous, etc I was infected in 1982 (when I was 21) by someone who died in 1987. I cannot get over that. I have gone through more medical hurdles than most people go thru in a lifetime. My self-esteem is in the toilet. I haven't worked in 15 years. An appendectomy rendered me impotent when I was 31. I am now 50. I cannot stand pretending to be happy. I also have not worked in 15 years. I am always waiting another medical issue to come up and it always does. All I do is go the gym and get silicone injections in my face for lipodystrophy. I would rather be dead than go on like this. I want a beta blocker to stop my heart and make things easy on myself.

Response from Dr. Fawcett

Public service announcements can cause strong feelings, as you know. There is a lot of discussion about the value of scare tactics. Some say they fight complacency, others note the harm they can cause, including reinforcing stereotypes. This is not just true for HIV ads. I have worked for years with meth addicts who complain that the scary ads depicting meth's effects didn't stop their use of the drug, it just made them feel shame about what they continued to do to themselves. While I commend you for changing the channel and avoiding getting upset, I think your reaction is very telling. You clearly have experienced many consequences of HIV, as well as the aftermath of just waiting for the next traumatic experience. Your anger is right there on the surface and it has to be painful. It's easy to get locked into a pattern of recycling old feelings of resentment about how unfair this is (and it is!). I believe you can experience real relief by getting some help (therapist and/or support group) to release some of that anger and more importantly, get to the feelings underneath it. Remember, anger is secondary - there are always other feelings below it. I hear real hurt and sadness in your writing which you may have never expressed. Let those feelings out and I know you'll feel relief.

Is this normal - has my HIV diagnosis really sunk in?
Why am I confusing numbers with letters... "p" and a "9" or "6" and a"g".... mostly when typing or reading?

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