ALAMEDA COUNTY: ‘Provocative’ HIV Ad Campaign Piques Supervisor
An Alameda County official has expressed his disapproval of a "graphic and thought-provoking" advertising campaign "intended to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS," the Alameda News Group reports. One of four campaign photos scheduled for display features two naked men entwined in each other's arms with an unused condom at their feet. County health officials said that the photos, which aim to encourage HIV testing, were never "intended to be placed on billboards and bus benches," as some county officials thought, but were to be distributed on plastic cards, condom packages, postcards and business cards at bars, clubs and other events. State health officials had asked the county, as well as five other counties, to undertake the three-year, $300,000 ad campaign "because the state has been unable to reach certain populations," including gays and bisexuals. Opposition to the campaign arose during a meeting of the county supervisors, during which supervisors voted 4-1 to approve the second part of the campaign aimed at gay or bisexual Latino men. Supervisor Scott Haggerty was the lone dissenter, arguing that he did not want children to view the "provocative" campaign. He said, "We should be responsible as a public entity in the way we advertise because we are using the taxpayers' dollars." But Supervisor Keith Carson said, "I think AIDS is a real epidemic and in the East Bay it's increasing. Whenever we have any kind of epidemic, we have to figure out how to get people engaged in that issue and how to change their minds." County Health Director Arnold Perkins also defended the ads, saying, "Collectively, if we can be as upset about people contracting and dying from AIDS as our prevention methods, then something can happen to stop this epidemic." The county hosted a series of focus groups with gay men, who said that "last year's more sedate campaign meant nothing to them" and told officials, "You need something that gets in our face, that catches our attention." Perkins said that "explicit public service ad campaigns" in San Francisco have contributed to a decline in the number of new HIV cases among homosexuals and IV drug users. In Alameda County, 89% of all AIDS patients between 1980 and 1998 were men, 74% of whom contracted HIV from having sex with men. Perkins, who said he will try to use materials that do not contain nude men, will consult with supervisors and county administrators before proceeding with the campaign scheduled for the second week of March (Horowitz, Alameda News Group, 2/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.