Shocked !? Scared into temporary abstinence? These images were created for a campaign by the Aids Healthcare Foundation and staynegative.org to send out a message that HIV is simply not a walk in the park.
These ads caused quite a bit of controversy in L.A. in the positive gay community and amongst their supporters. Last night I attended an open forum on the controversy in West Hollywood and the 2 hour conversation became intense and emotional at times.
Both sides agreed that it's extremely important that those who are negative remain that way, but what was not agreed upon was the way the foundation should command the attention of those at risk for infection through their marketing campaigns.
To say the images that you see above, and the images that were plastered all over buses and billboards in LA are graphic is an understatement. But isn't that what you have to look forward to if you become infected? Some would say yes, others would say that it's not the case for everyone, some healthcare professionals would even say with the new drugs that are on the market those side effects can be avoided with the selection of the correct regimen. So is becoming infected a big deal in 2006 or what?
There seems to be a disconnect between people over 35 who lived through the horror of the epidemic in the 80's when going to a funeral a week was the norm, and those in my age bracket who saw the invention of the drug "cocktails". Are we becoming complacent?
I think we would all agree that contracting HIV is not fabulous, but scare tactics do not work. It evokes an emotional response and a possible temporary change in behavior. Education, condom distribution, and routine testing is what's needed to curb the rise in new HIV infections.
This campaign only further stigmatizes a group of people who are already living life in the face of insurmountable odds.
Luckily, these ads are the first in a 3 tier marketing campaign. Hopefully, next time AHF will drive the stay negative message home without sensationalizing people who are living with(not dying from) HIV/AIDS.