New York’s H.I.V. Ad Divides Activists

A public service message has been criticized as stigmatizing and sensationalistic, but others say its approach is needed to get younger people to take the disease seriously. Full Story »

Posted by Anton Lorenzo V. Avancena - via New York Times (New York/Region), Richard Lazzara (t), mckarthy diahn (t), sudaneseonline (t), Ish Harshawat (t), JR Russ (t), Peter Avalos (t), urmi das (t), genglob (t), David K. Miller (t), Kristi Hancock (t), Wil Kristin (t), David Wardell (t), Patrick McDermott (t)

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Anton Lorenzo V. Avancena
4.1
by Anton Lorenzo V. Avancena - Jan. 10, 2011

Disease prevention is a key component of effective and efficient public health practice (http://www.hhs.gov/about/opdivs/phs.html). Disease prevention and control are foremost responsibilities of the State as they promote the general health and well being of the people (http://www.senate.gov/civics/constitution_item/constitution.htm). As the article discusses, the proponent of the HIV prevention ad was New York City’s Health and Mental Hygiene Department. Their campaign focused on gay men who, according to the city’s health records, had the highest incidence of HIV contraction over the past 9 years (http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/pr2010/ pr059-10.shtml). In addition to this, the graphic ads (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0ANiu3 YdJg ) featured mostly Latino and African-American men between ages 18 to 30 since they are said to have the most alarming contraction rate of all the identified subgroups (about 69% of new HIV diagnoses). When asked for her opinion, Dr. Monica Sweeny, the city’s assistant commissioner for H.I.V. prevention and control, says that amidst the criticisms the health bureau is happy about the response the ads have received. Aside from the government, some special-interest groups are also stakeholders in the issue of HIV/AIDS prevention. In the article, several representatives from various groups were quoted for their praise or criticism of the newly launched ads. For instance, Act Up founder Larry Kramer applauded the city’s effort for its honesty while Marjorie Hill of Gay Men’s Health Crisis and Jarret Barrios of Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) claim that the ads do not accurately illustrate how it is to have the incurable disease. Recently, three more groups have expressed their opposition to the campaign. These groups are vital to the debate going on because this issue directly affects their advocacy or their members. Finally, the article also covers the views of two specialists whose expertise are related to the issue of disease prevention. Their view on the matter is equally crucial because their professional opinion and experience can validate or deny the conflicting claims that have been made by the people involved. Dr. Peter Salovey of Yale University was one of the experts interviewed. The city’s critics used Dr. Salovey’s 2002 research as proof that negative messages are not effective for health campaigns (http://heblab.research.yale.edu/pub_pdf/pub40_Devos-Comby2002ApplyingpersuasionstrategiestoalterHIV-relevantthoughtsandbehavior.pdf). Dr. Salovey, however, said that in another published study, campaigns stressing on the risks or the benefits of a particular health concern worked for different contexts. On the other hand, internist and HIV specialist Dr. Howard Grossman commends the campaign since he believes they are good “fear-based ads” that target the youth who are having unprotected sex on impulse. The issue described in this article involving HIV/AIDS prevention illustrates clearly the intimate interaction between science and society. Given the known detrimental effects of HIV and AIDS, local governments and NGOs are doing their best to educate the public about the possible precautions they should take in order to prevent the spreading of the disease. However, the way an advocacy is promoted is another issue altogether because people have their own opinions on different matters and they develop different sensitivities. Thus, social marketing, communication, psychology, and public heath science are just some of the fields that have to work together to come up with a program that will work best for the majority. In New York City, people seem to agree that HIV/AIDS prevention is a pressing concern but the manner that it should be tackled is still up for discussion.

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