On Saturday, R20 wrote up the controversial HIV prevention television commercial produced by the New York City Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene, which warns that gay men who seroconvert are at increased risk for osteporosis, dementia, and "over 28 times more likely to get anal cancer." To encourage condom use, the spot uses extremely graphic images to illustrate that last point and many HIV prevention experts have criticized the messaging as "scare tactics."
GLAAD and the Gay Men's Health Crisis want the spot pulled because they fear it further stigmatizes people living with HIV/AIDS, reports the Wall Street Journal.
"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 GMHC. Roque said the ad had a “horror movie” like quality with eerie music that appeared to demonize gay men.
In a statement, the city’s Department of Health said, “Silence is no solution when the number of new HIV diagnoses among” men having sex with other men is up by more than 50% in eight years. "In developing this video spot, we tested various approaches in focus groups," said the statement. “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. The Health Department trumpeted the media campaign in a release last week, saying the video spots “promote condom use and partner reduction” in the gay community. The release said while HIV infection is no longer a "death sentence," living with HIV "is still no picnic."
The spot is scheduled to run on cable and broadcast television over the next week and the Health Dept. has no intention of pulling it. "I am completely comfortable with what we put out here. I have talked with many young men who are HIV positive," Dr. Monica Sweeney, assistant commissioner for the city’s Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control, told Housing Works. "This is not fabricated."
Other HIV prevention experts and people living with HIV/AIDS say otherwise. "I felt like I stepped back into 1987 when I saw this, my head almost exploded," said Jim Pickett, advocacy director at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. "I reject portraying my life—15 years and counting with HIV—as a hellish nightmare. Has it been tough? Yes, living with HIV is challenging. But it is not one big long scream of agony for most of us."
In case you missed it before, and a warning that some images are very graphic, watch AFTER THE JUMP ...