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by Matt Comer . Q-Notes staff
New AIDS campaign is just
In this issue, Q-Notes reports on the new
HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness cam
paign unveiled by the White House Office of
AIDS Policy and Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC). Dubbed “Act Against
AIDS,” the first phase of the campaign pro
claims what government experts hope will be a
powerful,.yet simple message: “Every 9Vi min
utes someone in the U.S. is infected with HIV’
The campaign wiU be rolled out in stages,
reaching target audiences such as African-
Americans; gays, bisexuals and men who have
sex with men (MSM); and Latinos. In the first
phase of the campaign, federal officials will
work with 14 nation^ African-American
organizations in a leadership Initiative in
which each organization will receive money to
help raise prevention awareness.
Act Against AIDS deserves tQ be applaud
ed, to some degree. The campaign marks the
first time in almost two decades that the fed
eral government has funded a national,
domestic HIV/AIDS awareness and preven
tion effort. Under the Obama Administration,
the Office of AIDS Policy has also been made a
part of the White House Office of Domestic
Policy. The promotion ensures that Obama’s
promise to deliver a national AIDS policy is at
least in the works.
But the Act Against AIDS campaign isn’t
perfect. In fact, I think the campaign — or ■
what we’ve seen of it — will be weak and inef
fective. Likely, it won’t have a big enough
impact to reach the populations most respon
sible for HIV/AIDS and those at the highest
risk of contracting it. Most notably, the cam
paign will likely fail with gay, hi and MSM
men, who represent more than half of all new
HIV infections nationwide.
It is no secret that gay, bi and MSM men
carry the burden of this disease. For years,
transmission rates among this population has
skyrocketed. At the same time, the govern
ment ignored the crisis and left prevention
and awareness efforts up to LGBT community
organizations. In most instances, community
groups have done a superb job at getting the
messages out to gay and bi men of all ages.
Perhaps the message has gotten out too well.
Since the early 1990s, the LGBT community
has been absolutely inundated and saturated
with safe sex messages.
Use a condom, pretty please. Use a condom,
pretty please. Use a condom, pretty please.
How many times can you say the same.
thing over and over again and it still have an
effect? Not for very long. Barebacking and
other unsafe, risky sexual behaviors are mak-
ing a comeback in the gay, bi and MSM popu
lations, after years of decline following the
harrowing AIDS crisis of the 1980s.
Young gay, bi and MSM men — those in
their mid-to-late 20s and younger — have
never experienced the death-filled culture that
for so long defined the gay and bi male com
munities. To young guys getting it on with
other guys, HIV is just another STD, some
thing that can be controlled, something they
can live with.
No one tells these young men about the
side effects of AIDS meds; pharmaceutical
companies surely aren’t going to pic
ture the real life of a person with
HIV or AIDS in their glossy and
sexy magazine advertisements.
Young men don’t see the vomiting,
nausea and diarrhea. They don’t see
the weight loss and facial wasting.
They don’t see the effects of opportunistic
viruses, colds or other ailments.
Telling gay, bi and MSM men that someone
in the U.S. is infected with HIV every nine-
and-a-half minutes isn’t something these men
don’t know. Gay men already know about HIV
■ and many of them know people who have it.
What’s more, many of these men see no way
they’ll escape it, so why try?
“If I’m going to end up with it anyway, why
wait?” That’s what more and more young gay
men are thinking and feeling, says Jacquelyn
Clymore, executive director of the Alliance of
AIDS Services-Carolina in Raleigh.
Young gay, bi and MSM men have grown
up in a world that tells them their sex is bad,
their love valueless, their bodies sick and dis
eased. Getting HIV is just icing on the already
STD-filled, self-loathing, culture-killing cake.
If you think you have nothing to live for,
why care when or how you’ll die?
To be fair to the CDC and other Act Against
AIDS officials: The campaign hasn’t been fully
unveiled. They say the first phase is meant only
to refocus the national attention on the crisis —
to reach those in the general population who
aren’t aware and don’t think about HIV/AIDS.
But the CDC is going to have to try harder,
think smarter and come up with more effec
tive messages when it comes time to target gay,
bi and MSM men. If they don’t, we’ll find mil
lions of dollars wasted, HIV/AIDS rates still
rising and more deaths in the gay community.
For our part, gay, bi and MSM men need to
wake the hell up. Strong language, I know, but it
is time to stop pussyfooting around the issues.
A large part of the HIV/AIDS crisis could end
with two words: Personal Responsibility.
Dan O’Neill, chair of the HIV Prevention
Working Group of the Washington, D.C., LGBT
Community Center, recently wrote on
DC.Bilerico.com that gay, bi and MSM men
need to start taking more of that personal
responsibility when it comes to sex and health.
“‘You been tested?’ said in the breathless
throes of getting it on, will no longer suffice,” he
wrote. “We need to follow up with: ‘When were
you last tested?’ and ‘How many people have you
had sex with since?’... ‘What types of sex have
you had?’... ‘Did you use a condom?’.. .‘Did
you know the serostatus of those sexual part
ners?’. .. etc. And we need to answer those
And, for Christ’s sake, stop downing so
much alcohol, drop the needle and pills and
put a damn condom on. I
Do you think the
“9'/2 minutes” HIV/AIDS
campaign will be effective?
See the options and vote at