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Detroit Woman's HIV/AIDS Hoax Video Spurs Debate Over HIV Prevention Ethics

By Warren Tong

January 28, 2010

Jackie Braxton

Jackie Braxton in her online video.

Earlier this month, 23-year-old Jackie Braxton sent a video to Mediatakeout.com in which she claimed to have intentionally infected about 500 people with HIV since her 1998 diagnosis. In the video, she hides her face behind a bandana, and names some of the people she supposedly infected in the Detroit, Mich., metropolitan area. Within two days, the video received more than 400,000 views, prompting several calls to the Detroit Police Department.

Police quickly identified Braxton, who runs her own pornography site (the address of which flashes repeatedly on the screen throughout the video). Because it is a felony in Michigan to knowingly transmit HIV, she was taken in for an HIV test at the city's health department, where she was confirmed to be negative.

Braxton admitted that the entire video was a hoax. Since she didn't actually infect anyone, experts aren't sure whether or not she can be charged with a crime. Regardless, her video caused a lot of controversy about the ethics of such a scare tactic.

In an interview with The Detroit News, Braxton said she wanted her video to increase awareness and "serve as a public service." However, she also admitted she made the video to market her porn site. She went on to apologize, but tried to point out the upside of her actions. "People's conceptions about [HIV] are still construed, but I bet you now they understand the virus more. There were so many people at the health department getting tested today. It was great feeling that you can make people do something positive." Indeed, health authorities reported that walk-in HIV testing more than doubled in Detroit beginning three days after the video surfaced.

In the video, Braxton calls herself a serial killer and states that the people she's infected will die. We know that HIV is no longer a death sentence, but she appears to feel that the people who don't know this are the very people she wanted to scare. Do you agree with her method? Would she have gotten more of your support if she hadn't used the video to advertise her porn site? Where do you think we should draw the line between raising HIV/AIDS awareness and raising HIV/AIDS panic?




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