New York: Gay Groups Blast City-Sponsored HIV Ad
December 15, 2010
Last week, New York City health officials launched a new prevention effort that seeks to counter HIV complacency among men who have sex with men (MSM). However, two gay and lesbian advocacy groups said the campaign's TV ad is stigmatizing and too sensational.
In the video, a voiceover states, "When you get HIV, it's never just HIV," noting "dozens of diseases" for which HIV-positive persons are at increased risk, "even if you take medications." The ad graphically depicts dementia, noting "permanent memory loss," and osteoporosis, "a disease that dissolves your bones." It states that with HIV, "you're over 28 times more likely to get anal cancer," which is visually depicted. "Stay HIV-free. Always use a condom," the voiceover ends.
"It really paints this picture of gay men as these sort of disease-ridden vessels, and so the message is really sort of, 'Stay away from gay men,'" said Francisco Roque, director of community health for the New York-based HIV advocacy group Gay Men's Health Crisis. The ad's "horror movie" quality and eerie sounds seem to demonize gay men, he said. GMHC and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said the ad creates a grim portrait of life with HIV, further stigmatizing those with the infection.
"While some community groups may dislike the message, others have spoken out to support it," the city's Department of Health & Mental Hygiene said. The department said it plans to air the ad, which is also on YouTube.com, on cable and broadcast television for two weeks this month and two weeks in January.
"Silence is no solution when the number of new HIV diagnoses among" MSM is up by more than 50 percent in eight years, the department said. "In developing this video spot, we tested various approaches in focus groups. The spot was informed by that process and by lessons learned from our successful anti-smoking efforts. It was also carefully vetted for technical accuracy."
Wall Street Journal
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