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U.S. News

New York: City's Graphic Ad on Dangers of HIV Is Dividing Activists

January 7, 2011

A hard-hitting HIV prevention television ad released by the New York City health department is getting a mixed reception from activists. The ad emphasizes several health risks associated with HIV infection that persist even in the era of effective treatment, and it promotes condom use.

"Studies have shown that scare tactics are not effective," said Marjorie Hill, CEO of Gay Men's Health Crisis. The ad "misses the mark in fairly and accurately representing what it's like to have HIV/AIDS," said Jarrett Barrios, president of Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Other groups that oppose the ad include Housing Works, the National Association of People with AIDS, and the city's HIV Health and Human Services Planning Council.

On the other hand, Larry Kramer, author and founder of ACT UP, praised the ad in an e-mail message: "This ad is honest and true and scary, all of which it should be. HIV is scary, and all attempts to curtail it via lily-livered nicey-nicey ‘prevention' tactics have failed."

Members of the target audience, Latino and black men ages 18-30 who have sex with men, were involved in focus group testing of the ad, city health officials said. The attention-grabbing approach reflects what worked for the city in past anti-smoking campaigns, they added.

"One of the points they kept making is you need to hit hard and do something to counteract the pharmaceutical ads that say having HIV is a walk in the park," said Dr. Monica Sweeney, assistant commissioner of the city's bureau of HIV prevention and control.

The city stands by the federally funded campaign, which cost $726,000 and was created by DCF Advertising. It is running on several cable and broadcast channels through mid-January and also is online at

Back to other news for January 2011

Adapted from:
New York Times
01.04.2011; Anemona Hartocollis

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.
See Also
Fear and HIV Prevention Shouldn't Mix
Fact Sheet: HIV/AIDS and Young Men Who Have Sex With Men
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
10 Common Fears About HIV Transmission
More on HIV Prevention Issues for Gay Men

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