Last week, the New York City Health Department posted a video PSA, It's Never Just HIV:
From the Department:
"When you get HIV, it's never just HIV. You're at a higher risk for dozens of diseases even if you take medications, like osteoporosis, dementia, and anal cancer."
Immediately, several readers posted angry comments on this blog and on my Facebook page that the prevention video demonizes and unnecessarily frightens people already with HIV.
"This video bothers me. Not in the way that it's supposed to though. I think they are trying to alienate people who already have HIV... I dont think this will help anyone to remember to wear a condom, but it will maybe get them to look down at HIV+ people as a lost cause. Whenever I see the "horror movie" fear campaigns against smoking or HIV or alcohol or drug use, it seems like the target is the people, not the disease," wrote JT.
Now GLAAD and Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York are now demanding the video be withdrawn. Here's the news release:
GMHC, GLAAD Call On the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to Pull Sensationalistic and Stigmatizing HIV/AIDS PSA
New York, NY--Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), the nation's oldest HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy provider, today joined the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the nation's leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, to demand that the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene pull a sensationalistic and stigmatizing television public service announcement aimed at gay and bisexual men.
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."
Both GLAAD and GMHC have reached out to the department to demand that the commercial be pulled and to offer to assistance with framing the conversation around HIV/AIDS more accurately.
"While it's extremely important that we continue to educate New Yorkers about HIV/AIDS prevention, the sensationalized nature of the commercial, including its tabloid-like fear tactics, misses the mark in fairly and accurately representing what it's like to live with HIV/AIDS," said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. "It's our hope that the department will work with us to create a PSA that promotes safety and solutions, rather than stigma and stereotype."
From the very beginning of the epidemic, gay men have been developing courageous and innovative solutions to reducing HIV, often lending their prevention activism to communities of color and heterosexual people. GMHC and GLAAD realize there is still a pressing need for safer sex education and that HIV and AIDS are still pressing public health issues. Yet the educational material must avoid perpetuating damaging, hurtful stigmas that harm gay and bisexual men.
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About GMHC: GMHC is a not-for-profit, volunteer-supported and community-based organization committed to national leadership in the fight against AIDS. We provide prevention and care services to men, women and families that are living with, or affected by, HIV/AIDS in New York City. We advocate for scientific, evidence-based public health solutions for hundreds of thousands worldwide. For more information, please visit www.gmhc.org.
About GLAAD: The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) amplifies the voice of the LGBT community by empowering real people to share their stories, holding the media accountable for the words and images they present, and helping grassroots organizations communicate effectively. By ensuring that the stories of LGBT people are heard through the media, GLAAD promotes understanding, increases acceptance, and advances equality. For more information, please visit www.glaad.org.