California: Panel Debates HIV Social Marketing Ads
January 31, 2008
A city ad campaign that encourages HIV status disclosure as a means of prevention was the topic of a recent panel discussion hosted by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission's LGBT advisory committee.
Launched in 2006, the bus-stop and billboard messages marks the first time a public health agency recognized "serosorting" - the practice by many in the gay community of choosing sex partners of the same HIV serostatus. Some residents and officials said the campaign could be seen as discriminatory and questioned whether the city should pay for such ads.
"Serosorting is not a new phenomenon," said Grant Colfax, HIV prevention and research director at the San Francisco Department of Public Health. "We've heard from the community that people are using this strategy," a method that is not intended to replace condom promotion, he added. "We felt it was important to come up with a campaign that included condom use but gave people a range of options."
"We lost the campaign to universalize condom use among gay men," said John Newmeyer, an epidemiologist at the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic. The condom campaign should have targeted insertive anal sex partners rather than receptive partners, Newmeyer said. However, condoms also lack enough variety to suit everyone's personal preferences, he added.
For men who do not use condoms, serosorting is the next best strategy, said Newmeyer. "The public has discovered [serosorting]," he added, recommending that men trust their partners but verify their HIV status by testing as a couple.
"I've yet to find any study that shows it prevents HIV," said Human Rights Commissioner Mark Dunlop, who was the moderator. "And one researcher in Washington is concerned it might cause an increase [in infections] because people lie." Dunlop also said dividing people by serostatus groups can be discriminatory.
Bay Area Reporter (San Francisco)
01.24.2008; Kris Larson