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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Scare-Mongering, Diseased-Anus-Mongering HIV Prevention Ad That's Pissing People Off

Posted by Dan Savage on Tue, Dec 14, 2010 at 9:43 AM

Last night GLAAD and Gay Men's Health Crisis called on the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to pull the above ad. From GLAAD and GMHC's joint press release:

The PSA, which is intended to encourage condom usage among gay and bisexual men, claims that those with HIV face a higher risk of bone loss, dementia, and anal cancer. While older adults living with HIV may be at greater risk of these conditions, the PSA creates a grim picture of what it is like to live with HIV that could further stigmatize HIV/AIDS, as well as gay and bisexual men.

"We know from our longstanding HIV prevention work that portraying gay and bisexual men as dispensing diseases is counterproductive," said Marjorie Hill, PhD, GMHC's Chief Executive Officer. "Studies have shown that using scare tactics is not effective. Including gay men's input, while recognizing their strength and resiliency, in the creation of HIV prevention education is effective. Gay men are part of the prevention solution, not the problem."

The comments on YouTube are overwhelmingly negative, which drew this la-la-la-we-can't-hear-you response from NYC Health:


It’s obvious from these comments we’ve struck a chord. If you want to learn more about HIV prevention and the importance of being tested, check out NYC Condom - Get Some! on Facebook and join the conversation.

My response after the jump...

••••

I'm not sure where I come down on this ad. It plays like a trailer for a horror movie, it's outrageously sensationalistic, and that brief image of a cauliflower dipped in stage blood near the end could put a guy right off cauliflower. (Or is that supposed to be a diseased anus?) The ad is disturbing, that's for sure, but... looking at HIV infection rates in urban areas... perhaps gay men and bi need a little disturbing right now?

And, I'm sorry, but I'm always suspicious when supposed experts at places like GMHC point to their "longstanding HIV prevention work" when they condemn new, novel, or shocking efforts to reach out to/smack some sense into gay men. Fact is, what we're doing now—those longstanding HIV prevention efforts—are not working. And they may not be working because AIDS orgs place way too much emphasis on recognizing the "strength and resiliency" of gay men and not enough emphasis delivering health messages to gay men or encouraging gay men to take responsibility for themselves and each other. I frankly don't think the HIV-infection rate will come down so long as AIDS orgs are run by people who think that delivering compliments to the gay community—you're strong! you're resilient!—is the primary mission.

GLAAD and GMHC's press release ends with this: "From the very beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, gay men have been developing courageous and innovative solutions to reducing HIV, often alongside communities of color and people." Courageous and innovative...


Nearly one in five gay and bisexual men in 21 major U.S. cities are infected with HIV, and nearly half of them do not know it, U.S. health officials said on Thursday. Young men, and especially young black men, are least likely to know if they are infected with HIV, according to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We need to reinvigorate our response to preventing HIV among gay and bisexual men," Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said in a telephone interview. "We can't allow HIV to continue its devastating toll among gay and bisexual men, and in particular, among young black men."

...and ineffectual. We have to start doing something different. I don't know if this ad is the answer. But I do know that the folks responsible for our "longstanding HIV prevention" efforts don't have the answer.

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