Advocacy groups say NYC health department ad demonizes gay men, HIV patients


Yesterday, we published a commentary condemning the New York City Health Department’s latest public service announcement, calling it humiliating and demonizing to HIV positive gay men, and gay men in general.

Today, two leading advocacy groups called the commercial sensational and stigmatizing, and called upon the city to pull it off the air.

The Gay Men’s Health Crisis, an HIV/AIDS prevention and advocacy group, and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), say the ad creates a grim portrait of being an HIV patient, which could further stigmatize victims.

“It really paints this picture of gay men as these sort of disease-ridden vessels, and so the message is really sort of, ‘Stay away from gay men,’” said Francisco Roque, director of community health for GMHC. Roque said the ad had a “horror movie” like quality with eerie music that appeared to demonize gay 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, GLAAD and GMHC assert 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.

“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,” Barrios said.

“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. ”

The Health Department said the video “promotes condom use and partner reduction” in the gay community and that it has no intention of dropping the ad.

You can read our commentary here. In case you missed the video, here it is again:

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