Today the Australian government has reacted to an overall rise of new HIV cases in Australia between 2000 and 2005 with a proposed new advertising campaign to get the safe sex message out there again.
NATASHA SIMPSON: It’s yet to be decided what form the campaign would take, but Don Baxter from the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, has a clear idea of how it should be designed to ensure maximum impact.
DON BAXTER: We need to be putting HIV messages to gay men on mainstream media. Fear-based messages and use a condom every time messages are no longer effective in quite a sophisticated and educated community.
So, we need some quite sophisticated – not necessarily provocative or contentious messages – but messages which speak very directly to gay men about the place of HIV in their lives and the ongoing risks of infection.
NATASHA SIMPSON: Don Baxter says the right campaign would also make economic sense, with every 1,000 new infections adding about $500-million to the cost of future drug subsidies, a point that’s not lost on the Health Minister.
TONY ABBOTT: It’s a very expensive disease and if we can spend $10-million dollars or thereabouts and help to prevent a couple of hundred people a year from coming down with HIV, that would be a very good investment.
See also Needle swaps to continue as new campaign against HIV begins — SMH, my post on 17 January; let’s hope Mr Howard and Mr Abbott do a rethink on that as well. That post also pointed out that NSW has gone against the trend upwards in new HIV infections.
Naturally there is quite a lot on this blog on the subject of HIV/AIDS. In the first section of Joel Levy’s Conspiracies (2005) a 0% believability rating is given to those various wingnuts who deny connection between HIV and AIDS. It is worth quoting:
The HIV/AIDS conspiracy theory holds little water but it has had a devastating impact on prevention efforts among some of the highest-risk groups. People who work with black prisoners, for instance, have reported that an alarming number ignore preventative advice because of the conspiracy theories they have heard. These observations are sobering examples of how the rhetoric of conspiracy and paranoia can be employed to further the ideology and agendas of extremist groups with incerdibly harmful consequences. Who knows how many millions of people in Africa, America, and round the world are needlessly infected with HIV because they believed the conspiracy theories and ignored the preventative advice that could have saved them?
Disgracefully, Quadrant ran “Emeritus Professor of Chemistry and Science Studies (but not, one notes, of Immunology) Henry H Bauer” on the unrelatedness of HIV and AIDS in its Golden Jubilee edition in July 2006. Go to what I wrote there to be directed to proper information on the subject, or review the PBS site The Age of AIDS. There are some other relevant sites listed on the right under “Gay Life and Issues”.
Two final points.
1) No-one should think HIV/AIDS is a good career move. Sure, they can keep you going often in very good health for quite a long time now, though it will come to an end, and probably not a pleasant end. Meantime of course you could be run over by a bus… Using common sense, you are, if living with HIV/AIDS, no problem to other people, as HIV is actually quite hard to transmit under normal circumstances. You won’t get it from toilet seats, and you are extremely unlikely to get it from hugging, kissing, or in any other casual way. Nonetheless, while not the sentence of very early and very nasty death that it used to be, having a compromised immune system, whatever the cause, is not very good for you, and the treatment requires discipline and does come with side effects.
2) While I am all for being non-judgmental, it is imperative too that any campaign is honest. If you really don’t want HIV/AIDS you will do even more than just use a condom with an appropriate water-based lubricant, though that is essential. You will be very wary of drugs, for starters. And you will run a mile from anyone who touts the glories of barebacking, or any practice that increases the chances of your immune system being breached.
Hanging around the hospice, as I have lately, makes you rather serious about all this.
See Adrian Phoon: The New National Sexual Health Campaign: Why We Need to Restore National Attention to HIV: This is great news, and it’s about time. Adrian has written a very well-documented entry there. [No longer open, sadly.]