Illinois: Amid Outcry, State-Funded HIV Prevention Ads Pulled
May 14, 2010
Media associated with a Chicago-area campaign to promote HIV and STD testing has been pulled after some residents criticized the messages as stigmatizing people with HIV. Launched in April, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH)-sponsored campaign was to have included billboards, posters in gay bars, public service announcements on radio and television, and an interactive Web site.
One prominent ad featured a man's face composed from images of four different men's faces. Above the composite image, in large type, it reads "he's the one," and below it, "that could infect you."
"I thought [the ad] was going to say, 'Is he the one?'" said Jeff Ramone, an Andersonville resident whose picture was part of the ad. "But then it turned out 'he's the one,' which is a more declarative statement, which is what has rattled a lot of cages."
Some fear the message might stigmatize those infected, thus making serostatus disclosure less likely. The composite face suggests a Frankenstein-like monster, critics said.
"To put it in this context is to create fear and distrust that suggests, 'Is this the guy who's going to do this to me?'" said Ramone. "One gets the sense that maybe there weren't a lot of public health people who intervened on this one."
A health communications foundation was given state funding for the campaign and had contracted with an advertising firm to create the ads.
"Our HIV section has been getting calls and they've been listening to constituents who say they did not agree with the ad," said Melanie Arnold, the department's spokesperson. "When we saw [the ad] we were not pleased with it either."
IDPH shuttered the Web site and is now removing all the ads, Arnold said.
05.14.2010; Dawn Turner Trice
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.