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Video Killed the Radio Star

(But Klaus Nomi Died of AIDS)

May 2001

On phone kiosks and bus shelters around New York recently, last year's ubiquitous Zerit and Sustiva ads have been replaced by close-up photos of concerned faces, each overlaid with a Big Message: "You need to know about MTV" or "Can you get MTV from Kissing?" These ads for MTV are lifted from early AIDS information campaigns that spoke to the general public's fear about a scary new disease. The new ads tap into this nostalgic quality, camping on naive fear the way 1950s A-Bomb and marijuana notions became objects of parody in the seventies.

It's a clever spin. The acronyms rhyme, both HIV and MTV owe much of their success to the lure of sex, both found a susceptible demographic among youth, and both have spread across the globe like, well, viruses. And each is marking its 20th anniversary this year. The parallels are rich; someone should write an essay.

I wonder, though, how does this campaign play? Are these old AIDS awareness nuggets freshened by MTV sensibility? Is there a prevention message here? Or is it all a joke? MTV seems to presume that its viewers know you can't get AIDS from kissing; that you can't tell if someone has HIV. Aren't folks more sophisticated these days?

In the late eighties, MTV featured specials on AIDS and gay love. I don't know how they're doing lately. Do they run condom ads? Are these bus shelter ads too clever or not clever enough? I just can't tell. I don't know if MTV will be around in twenty years, but, sadly, I'm certain HIV will.

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Back to the GMHC Treatment Issues May 2001 contents page.




  
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This article was provided by Gay Men's Health Crisis. It is a part of the publication GMHC Treatment Issues. Visit GMHC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
 

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