I don’t have all that much to say about the NYC Board of Health’s HIV-prevention advertisement, because I’ve said it all before. It’s pretty disheartening to see powerful organizations using fear to get a message across.
But, anyway, here’s a short schpiel.
This advertisement is completely ineffectual. This might sound inflammatory, but I’m deeply offended by this ad, and see no other way to respond to it except to be direct. All it does is attempt to instill fear into its viewers.
So lets go over this frame by frame. “When you get HIV, it’s never just HIV,” a scary deep voice tells us. “You’re at risk for dozens of diseases even if you take medication.”
First of all, that is a blatant oversimplification of any factual data about HIV. HIV does effect the immune system, which can potentially put an individual at risk for other diseases. However it is not as simple as ‘you are at risk even if you take medication.’ Because, to steal a catchphrase, HIV isn’t just HIV. It’s not a virus that manifests itself the same way in every HIV positive person.
And next we have close up images of the potential diseases you will contract! Osteoporosis! Dementia! And, in all of its bloody glory… ANAL CANCER!
Because everyone that has HIV also has anal cancer.
And, the final frame: “Stay HIV free. Always use a condom.” Good advice, but I barely noticed it.
OH! And! Everyone who is at risk for HIV is male. Clearly. I’m surprised that all of the men weren’t wearing rainbow pins to remind us that HIV is a gay disease, too.
The real kicker for me is that on YouTube the advertisement is filed under the category of “education.” There is nothing educational about this video. It’s a scare tactic that reinforces the stereotype that being HIV positive means your life is over and you will never be able to lead a fulfilling life. Sure, it tells its viewers to always use a condom, but how about reinforcing that with facts about barrier methods rather than with pictures of bloody anuses?