S.F. Officials to Discuss Ban on ‘Too Positive’ AIDS Drug Ads
Concerned that AIDS drug advertisements are sending "too positive a message" about living with HIV, officials in San Francisco will hold public hearings next week to decide whether to ban public advertising of the treatments, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Supervisor Tom Ammiano called for the hearing, saying that the ads were contributing to the epidemic. He said that the ads "lea[d] people to think they can have unsafe sex, pop a pill and be fine. This has been a matter of deep concern for several years now." Recently published studies have noted a rise in HIV infections among gay men in several major cities, including San Francisco. AIDS activist Jeff Getty of the San Francisco group Survive AIDS said that drug ads are creating a "phony and distorted image" of living with HIV. He said, "They are saturating the neighborhoods with these ads. We think they are leading to unsafe sex." Jeffrey Klausner, an epidemiologist with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, is conducting a survey of gay and straight men who visit the city's clinics for STD treatment. Of the 262 men surveyed so far, 62% agreed that the ads "affect a person's decision to have unprotected sex." The survey will not be complete until Klausner has polled 1,000 men (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/15). Ammiano said he will "push" the board to ban such ads from city buses, subways and property "unless the drug companies agree to devote half their ad space to promoting protective use of condoms" (Garrett, Newsday, 3/14). The FDA is investigating whether it has the authority to force pharmaceutical companies to "tone down" the ads (Koury, San Jose Mercury News, 3/15). Richard Klein, the FDA's HIV/AIDS program director, has asked the agency's general counsel to review the ads, but said it is "probable" that the agency will not be able to "take legal regulatory action based on the photographs" unless they find that the ads are "misleading relative to the drugs' label indications" (Alyson Browett, California Healthline, 3/16).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.