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San Francisco: New AIDS Ad Campaign Hits a Nerve

November 8, 2002

The Stop AIDS Project's four new ads -- which feature HIV-positive San Francisco men suffering from constant diarrhea, protruding stomach ("Crix belly"), night sweats or facial wasting -- are an in-your-face attempt to portray the side effects of HIV and AIDS medications. "Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to be alive," each man says. "But HIV is no picnic."

The campaign is designed to counter the widely held perception among HIV-negative men that contracting HIV is no longer something of much concern. "I had an HIV-negative man tell me... it is okay to have sex with me without a condom because all you have to take is a few pills and you are fine," said Keith Folger, a program manager with SAP. "We don't want to see another generation of gay men die if we can stop it."

But the ads, which appeared in the Bay Area Reporter and on city bus shelters in early October, are hitting a nerve with some HIV-positive men. "Stop AIDS is running the campaign on a fear- based perspective. They are not approaching it from a public health perspective at all," said Michael Stanley, 54, who has lived with HIV for 18 years. Stanley has taken to streets in the Castro to petition against the campaign.

Despite the concerns raised by Stanley and other gay men upset with the campaign, SAP said it has no plans to drop the ads, which will run another 16 weeks. The petition drive, which has generated several hundred signatures, did not surprise SAP Program Director David Evans. "It was never our intention to harm or stigmatize anyone," he said. "But the HIV-positive guys who make up our Positive Force Program have been waiting to tell negative guys how tough it can be to live with HIV. We consider this a truth in advertising campaign."

Martin Hollick, 39, has been HIV-positive for 15 years, is the model in the diarrhea ad. "We are not placing blame," he said. "We are just trying to get that message out that it is still important to practice safe sex."

Back to other CDC news for November 8, 2002

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Adapted from:
Bay Area Reporter (San Francisco)
10.31.02; Matthew S. Bajko

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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