Mark S. King

Sexy Soap Stars Struck with AIDS and Cancer!

Filed By Mark S. King | December 11, 2010 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: HIV testing, HIV/AIDS

A horrific rash of AIDS, mental disease and anal cancer has struck a group of adorable, pouty-faced young actors living in New York City. This NYC health department TV spot is scarier than the Black Swan trailer, so please be warned.

When will we stop making monsters out of those with HIV? How these actors ever get another date I'll never know. With stigma raging on cruise sites ("Disease Free, UB2") and amongst friends, is this really helping?

Gay men haven't responded to scare tactics since friends stopped dying weekly. How about explaining the risks to our wallets? After paying for insurance and medications, I don't have money left for a single night out. Or for a stylist to give me that fresh faced, Young & Restless look.

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Did Tony Perkins consult on this ad? Concerned Women of America? Pat Robertson?

Just how many HIV negative guys - who may be engaging in behaviors that could expose them to HIV - will be motivated to test after watching this horror show of lies?

Would you want to test - and potentially find out you are POZ, only to discover that even if you take your meds - your life is FUCKED?

Negative guys - what say you?

As a positive guy - going on 16 years - I am deeply offended by this and in no way does it describe my life.

And hey, I have been exposed to HPV (that is what causes anal cancer, not HIV). I was screened, had an abnormal pap smear and was biopsied and treated. Guess what, my chances of getting anal cancer are next to nil. Imagine that. I have HIV and HPV and my ass will never look like the lovely shot in this nasty ad. But, reality doesn't make good scare fodder, does it>

AIDS is still killing people I know. And because HIV attacks the immune system, it increases the risk of getting a wide variety of diseases, including various cancers. The statistics aren't wrong, even if they don't describe your life.

This PSA has no place on TV, because it promotes the myth that HIV/AIDS is a "gay disease" -- that's the stigma -- and that, if you aren't gay, you don't need to worry about HIV and safe sex.

But where did you get the idea that you have some inalienable right to high risk, anonymous sex? Or that someone who's cruising doesn't have a right to choose HIV- partners?

If "scare tactics" no longer get through to you boneheads, please suggest something that will, because new infections are still high in gay men. And I don't think that not having money for a night out is going to be very persuasive.

There is no vaccine for HIV, there is no cure, the meds don't always work, and even when they do, it's a difficult virus to control.

In this case, ignorance is not blissful.

equally as problematic as the trouble representing the risk of HIV and co-infections is the reduction of safer sex to a single solution - "always wear a condom." a reductive solution that obscures other really important HIV prevention messages and strategies like:

- get tested regularly
- talk about your status with your sexual partners
- use lube to reduce possible tearing to yr hole
- oral sex is safer than anal sex

etc etc etc. i'm so sick and tired of condoms condoms condoms...

when will we start applying harm reduction strategies to HIV prevention like they do in other parts of the world. uggg...

Agree completely!! Very well stated.

Absolutely, right on, Conrad!! And this horrorific nonsense coming form NYC Health Dept??? Have they learned nothing in 30 years? I first saw this ad on Lifelube (Yayyy, Jim Picket!) and was appalled. Just what we men-loving-men need right now, images of death and depression. I mean those guys may be pretty, but they sure do look a mess!

"Would you want to test - and potentially find out you are POZ, only to discover that even if you take your meds - your life is FUCKED?"

Also, how many people will be able to recognize this as an exaggerated scare tactic and as a result not take the virus as seriously as it should be taken? Exaggerations in both directions (both "meh, it's not so bad" and "IT'S GOING TO KILL YOU!") are wrong because they distort information and make decisions more difficult. Not to mention it poisons the public discourse, turning positive people into lepers and typhoid Marys--plus "moralizing" an organism like HIV is silly. Testing and treatment is also a major part of prevention and it seems like stigmatizing rhetoric undermines the "testing" aspect of prevention.

I do think people should be made more aware of the burdensome aspects of having HIV. There is a dearth of messages about this, at least in my experience. It needs to be done sympathetically, but truthfully (this ad is not truthful and is shrill). HIV is for too many out of sight, out of mind. That makes it easier to make unhealthy decisions.

At the end of the day, we live in a country that has a nervous breakdown when Janet Jackson shows a boob on TV. But of course, we are all fully ready and equipped with the mental and psychological tools to make completely sane, rational choices about our sex-lives, living in such a basket-case culture. At least that's what SOME "personal responsibility" prevention strategies seem to assume. When are we going to talk about our COLLECTIVE, SOCIAL responsibility as a queer community and as a nation?

"Would you want to test - and potentially find out you are POZ, only to discover that even if you take your meds - your life is FUCKED?"

Exactly backwards. Unless you're saying that knowing you're HIV+ will awaken in you some sense of personal responsibility, and cause you to make changes in your life that will provide a measure of protection to your sexual partner(s). Is that what you mean by "...your life is FUCKED?"

If you're POS and DON'T get treatment, sooner or later your life IS fucked, and you've fucked up more lives along the way. Is that what you really want?

It has been proven over and over that when people find out they are POZ, they take steps to protect their partners and themselves. MOST infection occur among individuals who don't know their status. So, it is important for people to find out their status, and barriers like this awful ad hinder that.

Being POZ and not being on meds, by the way, doesn't mean that person has fucked up anyone's life along the way. As for other options - we need to re-think prevention.

Not only do we need new technologies - such as oral a lube-based prevention options that are being developed right now - we also need to look more holistically at prevention.

Prevention is employment. Prevention is accessible, culturally competent substance abuse treatment and mental health care. Prevention is access to complete health care - period. Prevention is housing, and having a full stomach. Prevention is tackling the pervasive homophobia that keeps us from accessing care and taking care of ourselves. Prevention is addressing the mass incarceration of black people. Prevention is putting an end to staggering poverty.

It aint "just use a condom." And it's not all about individual responsibility. There are enormous structural problems out of the control of the individual which nonetheless affects their health outcomes.

Collective, social responsibility?

As a start, you may want to look here:

The National HIV/AIDS Strategy isn't perfect -- that notion of "personal responsibility" isn't given ANY play, and it uses the words "sexually active" euphemistically, to avoid terms like promiscuous, but it was a good start!

States and localities are now devising their own strategies and implementation plans.

There have been public hearings, and there are draft documents online, for public comment.

Those of us working in HIV prevention and treatment welcome any and all constructive suggestions!

wow this makes me rally angry. I find it shocking that the city is putting out this garbage. The straight- announcer-guy voiceover "anal cancer" with the money shot really tells the story of where they 're coming from- trying to shame and scare young men into not doing that nasty gross gay stuff with your - um ,you know , rear-end. Forget information or education, just instill shame , fear, and disgust - to promote better more self-caring and community-caring sexual choices (!?)
not to mention the archaic "always use a condom" message flies in the face of 15 years of prevention research worldwide...

'just say no - cuz gay is icky and you get icky diseases' yeah that's going to help a whole lot of young msm feel good enough about themselves, and empowered enough with accurate info, to take better care of themselves and their partners...NOT

For anyone who believes that scare tactics and fear are effective ways at preventing HIV - please take a moment of your time to check out this brief and well-sourced paper
"The role of fear in HIV prevention"

"Prevention is..."

All those things together have been given a name, structural intervention. Google it and you will find lots of stuff written about it. That's how many of us view HIV prevention.

One of the shortcomings of the White House Strategy is that it emphasizes getting people into health care, housing, on a regular diet, etc. -- as soon as they're diagnosed with HIV.

And as you point out, not having regular employment, housing, health care, etc. are risk factors in getting infected in the first place.

Another, deeply troubling, aspect of the Strategy is the suggestion that HIV prevention among gays be addressed by legislation at the state level.
(Page 15, 1.2.1) I cringe at the mischief that state lawmakers are capable of.

But, for all their shortcomings, there is no more effective barrier to the exchange of bodily fluids than a condom. Used properly (and with appropriate lubrication), condoms are VERY effective in preventing transmission of HIV and a great variety of other sexually transmitted infections.

Only abstinence is safer.

It's about damn time the US prioritize gay men in our prevention and care efforts. The Strategy say the resources must follow the epidemic - period. And the Strategy is right on target in addressing structural interventions. I think it's a powerful document.

Condoms only work if you use them. If you are able to use them, want to use them. This is why we need new interventions at the individual behavior level - oral prevention and topical prevention. Both will be very important in the coming years, and will completely alter the prevention landscape.

BTW - I don't need to Google to learn about HIV prevention, hon.

Regan DuCasse | December 12, 2010 5:01 PM

I have a problem with this ad too. Perhaps because it's required to be so short, it's not expansive enough on the most effective information. Marginal minorities have ALWAYS been traditionally neglected by the health establishment and the media.

Because the reportage and misinformation made it look like ONLY gay men need to have worried, still reflects poorly on the OTHER at risk group: black women.

Black women's infection rates are commiserate with gay men's and both groups of color are at higher risk.
A tragic confluence of misinformation, distrust and neglect and lack of access to health care and skilled professionals.

Monogamy among the uninfected reduces risk, so does the use of spermicides WITH the condom as well.

Who to target for this education has been very sticky because of so many people's general reluctance to WANT to know.
There is more blame being thrown around than responsibility being taken for getting control of this thing.

Nor do I, Hon.

In fact, you and I are largely in agreement. But this is a public conversation, and as such it involves the readers, not all of whom have the background that we do.

A National HIV/AIDS Strategy is great. Painting a target on gay men's backs, not so much.

And not all of my comments, such as calling Mark S. King (and people who agree with him on this issue) boneheads, apply to everyone.

Aw, man... I was politely ignoring your calling me a bonehead the first time you said it, and now you go and say it again. Jeez.

This campaign is intended to target gay men, so I reserve the right to say it offends me, to explain why, and to offer modest suggestions. Things like disposable income are strong motivators for gay men, research shows, so explaining the financial consequences of HIV infection in a compelling way isn't so, well, boneheaded.

I'm glad the post has generated such thoughtful discussion. The insults and naive judgments... not so much.


I agree with you that the PSA is offensive to gay men. And it targets a subgroup of gay men that is unlikely to be scared into changing their behavior by viewing it. Furthermore, it perpetuates and reinforces both myths about and social stigma against gay men in the larger society, which is terrible.

It also offends me personally bacause, getting away from generalities for a minute, it is in no way reflective of the lives of my HIV+ friends.

But "you want to protect yourself from HIV because treatment is expensive?" Please show me research on how effective that is, because the at risk people that I work with would just laugh.

And most of the dollars that are spent on treatment do not come out of the pockets of those infected. Look up the cost of your own meds.

I will continue to read your interesting perspective on life, but it is not reflective of the lives of my family, friends, and professional colleagues on either HIV prevention or treatment.

And roughly half of us are HIV+.

Enjoy the beach!