Wednesday, December 15, 2010

That scary NYC DOH HIV prevention ad? Trenton Straube nails it at POZ...

The long and  rambling post I wrote on Monday about the new and controversial HIV prevention ad released by the New York City Department of Health has been on my mind.

As I was writing what I thought would be an objective post in which I would not take sides on whether the ad was an effective or ineffective ad, I found myself admiring the willingness to shake up the status-quo and the use of shock tactics to wake up gay men - and particularly young gay men - out of the complacency that seems to have settled over the community when it comes to HIV/AIDS.

I've seen a lot of the leading gay bloggers write non-committal posts asking readers to express whether they find the ad effective or ineffective.  But a few have taken sides.

On the pro side:
..and, ehm, me?  At least that's what I sorta said in my last post.

Expressing outrage about the ad were:
There are also all the telling pro- and anti-ad reader remarks posted by readers at Joe.My.God. and Towleroad, among others.

Tonight, though, there is a great opinion piece by POZ Magazine copy editor Trenton Straube which nails exactly why the ad has drawn such divergent reactions as well as why the hunger for a frank discussion of the issues that lead to HIV transmission among gay men in this day and age still do not excuse the use of scare tactics for the sake of it.

From his essay:
Personally, I oppose sugarcoating reality--if the facts are scary, then so be it--and I suspect that most people, especially young men who have sex with men, are oblivious to the accurate statement "It's never just HIV." Let's tell that truth. It's important, especially in light of the bareback pornification and sexualization of, well, most everything nowadays, and in light of the growing believe that HIV is a manageable disease (surely, all the recent news about Truvada as a pre-exposure prophylaxis will convince some folks that high-risk behavior isn't so high risk after all).

However, let's talk about the PSA's tone and presentation. This 30-second horror show is one thunderclap away from parodying those "Gathering Storm" ads that warned about the impeding dangers of marriage equality. Such melodramatic delivery overshadows the important message. I get that the campaign is in line with the city's other fear-based PSAs against smoking, which relish in images of clogged arties, diseased lungs and amputated fingers.

But do we really need to see a mutilated anus in association with HIV and men who have sex with men (MSM)? The ad does more to stigmatize anal sex than people living with HIV. Cigarettes and HIV aren't synonymous and the two shouldn't be treated identically in a campaign. As other online commentators pointed out, smoking, unlike sexuality, isn't part of your intrinsic identity as a person. Sexuality subjects you to discrimination in terms of human rights, religious equality, loving relationships, etc. 
Read the entire piece here. It's certainly worth it. And my easily impressionable mind is back on the 'no to the NYC DOH ad' column.


1 comment:

libhom said...

I don't buy what Straube is saying at all. I didn't see the ads as stigmatizing anal sex among men.

The ads are a welcome antidote from the marketing from Big Pharma which makes HIV sound harmless.

HIV prevention needs to become more honest. HIV is still something that people desperately need to avoid if they aren't positive.

Our country is falling apart. It isn't safe to assume that HIV drugs will even be available 20 years for now, or that anyone will be able to afford them except the rich.

GMHC is really being clueless about this. They should know better. I'm used to GLAADCorp being useless or counterproductive these days, but GMHC is an organization that I thought was better than this.