Text-Only Billboards Aim to Prevent HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles’ High-Risk Minority Groups
Los Angeles County officials plan to launch a $1 million HIV prevention campaign for at-risk minorities that will consist of text-only bilingual billboards promoting "loving responsibly," the Los Angeles Times reports. According to the Times, the billboards will display messages such as "Respecting Yourself and Valuing Your Partner" and "Caring for Our Gay Sons and Brothers" and will include a telephone number to call for information on HIV testing sites and counseling. The billboards will be placed in the Compton, South-Central and East Los Angeles neighborhoods and in several other predominantly black and Latino communities. The "conservative" ads were prompted by federal officials' reviews of recent ad campaigns in San Francisco and other parts of the state that may have "exceed[ed] the bounds of good taste," the Times reports. According to Gunther Freehill, one of the designers of the campaign, the ads are "uniform and nonspecific" to "avoid turning some people off." Freehill said, "We are looking for a very broad audience. I don't want to narrowcast it in a way that's going to exclude the people who need to come to the table. ... If you are too explicit, some people will shut down and say, 'This is not happening in my community.'" While some observers feel that the ads are "too plain to get their point across," Charles Henry, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services' Office of AIDS Programs and Policy, said, "Getting [people] into this statement of loving responsibly is the first step." According to Freehill, the health department plans to use pictures and "more personal messages" in future phases of the ad campaign (Galarza, Los Angeles Times, 3/16).