AIDS/HIV | New York

NYC Health Department Releases Graphic HIV PSA

In an obvious response to the complacent attitude toward HIV taken by some in the gay community, the New York City Health Department has just released a graphic public service announcement that explains "It's Never Just HIV." The 30-second spot informs that those suffering from HIV can also be afflicted with severe osteoporosis, dementia and anal cancer. The goal of the PSA? To increase condom use.

A department official said in a statement: “We have made tremendous progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but this is no time for complacency. HIV continues to take a major toll on men who have sex with men – regardless of whether they identify as gay – and the virus is spreading more each year in those under 30. This spot should serve as a wake-up call. Unprotected sex is still dangerous, and more partners means more risk.”

The PSA, which will air through January, is AFTER THE JUMP. It includes a graphic image so it may not be all that safe for work.

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  1. Should post the commercial in craigslist m4m section.

    Posted by: kodiak | Dec 11, 2010 9:34:37 AM

  2. Condoms reduce intimacy and kill boners. How about good old fashioned monogamy guys!

    Posted by: ty | Dec 11, 2010 9:47:05 AM

  3. I've watched the changing attitudes towards this disease over the years, and it's downright disturbing. I keep hearing the same excuses, "medication has gotten better," "people with AIDS live a lot longer than they used to..." One of the stupidest things gay people ever did was forget about AIDS.

    I think this PSA is pretty bad, not because of the content, but the production values and especially the voice over. Sounds like a trailer to a bad action movie.

    Posted by: BEAHBEAH | Dec 11, 2010 9:51:13 AM

  4. TY

    but till the moment the couple agrees to monogamy and both get tested etc....condoms should be used. Then yeah monogamy is the best way to prevent the spread of HIV

    Posted by: | Dec 11, 2010 10:16:04 AM

  5. Yeah because using shame, guilt and fear worked so well the first time around. Gays were shell shocked buy the constant barrage of negative and preachy messages in the 1980s that made HIV seem inevitable and described gay sex as “play” with calls for “playing safe”. After all these years can’t someone come up with a more effective and long lasting way to send this message of risk and responsibility? This thing plays like a Fox news hype of the week.

    Posted by: ggreen | Dec 11, 2010 10:37:21 AM

  6. Can someone here speak to the prevalence of anal cancer among HIV positive men? My direct experience with HIV is very limited, but in all these years, this is the first time I've heard that statement. Therefore, it has the ring of something Tony Perkins would state rather than the ring of truth, and, I think, weakens the impact of message while at the same time stigmatizing the disease.

    Posted by: Boxerdad | Dec 11, 2010 10:49:42 AM

  7. Boxerdad....anal cancer is thought to be caused by HPV, the human papilloma virus. This is the same virus that infects women and potentially causes cervical cancer. There are dozens of sub-types of HPV, some causing genital warts and in others cancer. Even typical warts on one's hands are a variant of HPV.

    In immuno-compromised men and women, HPV is harder to contain. Once contracted, HPV remains in the body for life potentially causing potential problems, however a healthy immune system can usually keep the virus from manifesting symptoms. Some people are even fortunate enough to completely eliminate HPV from their bodies, but that is usually the exception.

    In men with HIV, the immune system is overtaxed fighting HIV. As the immune system begins to fail, and opportunistic infections set in, if that individual has previously contracted HPV, he risks it reemerging from its controlled dormant state into something considerably worse. Like cancer.

    This can be said for HSV as well. (The herpes virus) People with HIV who also have HSV can run the risk of the herpes virus becoming more of a problem too. (Like herpes induced meningitis)

    Posted by: Brian J. | Dec 11, 2010 11:33:18 AM

  8. @Boxerdad: Here's a link to more info on prevalence:

    Anal cancer can be caused by some strains of HPV, which is a very common STI among all sexually active individuals; condoms do not protect fully from it.

    Posted by: maxx40 | Dec 11, 2010 11:34:28 AM

  9. @ Ty: I'm pretty sure that "good old fashioned monogamy, guys" will work about as well as "abstinence only". There is no substitute for a condom.

    Posted by: ophu | Dec 11, 2010 11:50:20 AM

  10. My best friend who is HIV+ and diagnosed two years ago with AIDS saw this on Tuesday night and nearly lost it. He was so disturbed and became so despairing that he asked me, "Why am I taking all this medication if I'm going to get dementia or anal cancer or osteoporosis? I'm screwed no matter what I do. What's the point of all this?"

    Since then he has been as depressed as I have ever seen him. I suggested he consult with his primary care physician about this ad. I am trying to encourage him, keep his spirits up, but this ad really got to him.

    We've gone through a couple of very rough years and almost a year ago, he turned a corner mentally and physically. Now, after viewing this ad, he's almost back to square one--at least, mentally.

    It's a shocking ad, that's for sure. I hope no one else has been so deeply affected by this ad like my dear friend.


    Posted by: jamal49 | Dec 11, 2010 12:07:02 PM

  11. I am very sad for your friend, Jamal. He will have struggles, but needs to live to face them, and will live much better on treatment than without it. Life with HIV, warts and all, is better than not living- where we will all be soon enough.

    We deliver two very contradictory messages about HIV. One is that there is hope and treatment and we need to support those affected, another is that one really, really needs to avoid it. I am an HIV negative gay physician, whose teenage son just came out, and I'm worried.

    I am distressed by those eroticizing and romanticizing "barebacking," especially among the young, and am very worried for my son. Next to suicide, it's my greatest fear. I will show this ad to my partner but I wonder if my 14 year old son is ready for it. Probably better to make the point in a less dramatic way, as he is struggling with ostracism already, and wonders what his future holds. Will keep up with the "It Gets Better" videos. (An answer to a prayer.) Very interested in other comments on this provocative ad.

    Posted by: Rob | Dec 11, 2010 12:26:08 PM

  12. Is the ignorance surrounding HIV and AIDS among of all people gay men that bad, even after all this time? OF COURSE it's still a deadly illness! There are very advanced TREATMENTS for it, especially compared to the first 10 years or more of the virus outbreak when it was an automatic, painful and fast death sentence, but it's still only treatments, not a cure. And the treatments involve taking a cocktail of drugs that in and of themselves have negative side-effects, in addition to being very expensive. And of course the bodies immune system is badly compromised, which is how the cancers, infections,skin disorders,etc., develop. This is a shock or news to gay men, in America, in 2010? Holy crap.

    Anybody watch, read, hear about the male porn actor who has contacted HIV/AIDS? Performed in both str8 and gay porn. After his FIRST porn job he had contacted gonorrhea, chlamydia, and herpes! Now, after only being in the business a short time [where he didn't use condoms on some occasions and barebacked], he's HIV+. You know better, engage in stupid reckless shit like barebacking with strangers or with those you know have a high probability of being diseased, you might as just as well put a gun to your head.

    I watched a porn clip a few days ago and it was PLAINLY obvious one of the dudes had gonorrhea of the mouth [an example of the law of unintended consequences and HD video]. And he then barebacked! And they both used poppers. Both guys were otherwise very good looking, young healthy [on the outside] looking dudes. I watched for 2 minutes with morbid fascination.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Dec 11, 2010 12:57:20 PM

  13. I think the ad's answer is too simplistic. People are always being told to "always wear a condom" to prevent both pregnancy and STD's, especially HIV.
    I have some issues with this message:
    One issue is that people need to realize that there are all kinds of ways to get off with someone, and some of them involve a relatively low or even zero percent chance of either pregnancy or HIV.
    People can choose what kind of sexual activity they will have with someone (based on things like risk factors), and also should never feel pressured to have any kind of sex with someone when they don't want to. "Always use a condom" subtly suggests there are no other options than having risky sex with whoever wants it from you.
    Another problem is that condoms alone are not a great solution. Condoms AND lube AND not proceeding without replacing a condom if it breaks would be an improvement. But I know plenty of women with unplanned kids who received the same message to "always use a condom" and ending up saying, "I guess it broke."
    Another thing: you know FOR SURE that both partners have no STD's (i.e. you've been monogamous with each other for long enough and have both been tested afterward), then a condom won't be necessary, unless you just like wearing them.

    Posted by: GregV | Dec 11, 2010 1:17:05 PM

  14. Negative reinforcement only changes behavior in the short run. It's like trying to scare teenagers into driving safely by showing them footage of bad car wrecks. After around 3 weeks - the lesson is pretty much forgotten. These ads have to use positive reinforcement that make HIV- people good about safe behavior, and won't make HIV+ people despair about their lives.

    Posted by: scott | Dec 11, 2010 1:34:26 PM

  15. Thank you to Brian and Maxx for the info and link. I don't want to minimize the very real risks of anal cancer for HIV+ men, but I do think the PSA paints a misleading picture. I conclude from reading the article Maxx linked to that the risk increases by a factor of 2 for MSM who are poz vs. MSM who are negative, not a factor of 28 as the PSA implies. Is the cost of such sensationalism worth sending Jamal's friend and others like him into deep despair? Not if there are other, more honest ways to get the message across.

    Posted by: Boxerdad | Dec 11, 2010 2:16:08 PM

  16. This ad stigmatizes HIV positive men. There is already too much AIDSphobia in the community. This ad makes younger low information gay men FEAR contact with HIV+ men.
    This ad should not be shown.

    Posted by: kimosabe | Dec 11, 2010 2:49:40 PM

  17. Boxerdad...

    I am currently HIV negative. I'd like to stay that way, and I practice safer sex religiously, however I realize that being sexually active no matter how safe I am could result in an accident, a slip up, a moment of bad judgement and so forth. I've been there and have had my share of scares. But we're human beings and therefore prone to mistakes. Scaring the bejesus out of someone for their mistakes will only move a person into living their life out of fear which usually means more mistakes, depression and self image problems.

    Whether you're positive or negative, contracting HPV isn't that difficult. In reality, more gay men are exposed to HPV than HIV. Your HIV sero-status is only really an indicator as to how well your body will ultimately deal with the virus. HIV negative people can still get HPV induced anal cancer... but poz folks face a greater risk of HPV going out of control. Whether it's 2x greater or 28x greater I'm not really sure. The problem with statistics and odds is there's a different set of numbers for whichever political party is trying to make a statement. All we can do is know that poz people face a greater risk of developing anal cancer IF they have HPV.

    Personally this ad gets me a little upset. Yes...all these things can happen to you if you have HIV. But lets look at the "noble" brother of chronic diseases....Cancer. If someone contracts cancer that's a horrible thing too...and the drugs you take to treat it can eat you alive but with cancer your socially forgiven because you didn't do something "shameful" to get it (or maybe you did but its still better to be a smoker or have some other vice that contributes to cancer rather than being a filthy homo).

    What this ad accomplishes is a demonization of people with HIV and reasserts that if you do something wrong and get this disease your life will be without hope, you'll die a horrible death, and if you must partake in shameful sex use a condom or you'll get what you deserve.

    Posted by: Brian J. | Dec 11, 2010 3:06:59 PM

  18. As someone who is newly infected with HIV and just starting taking medication, I had a similar reaction to that of Jamal's friend; this has completely ruined my day. Thanks Towleroad.

    Posted by: Depressed | Dec 11, 2010 3:32:01 PM

  19. This ad is certainly depressing. I can see where it would really affect someone who is already HIV+ and cause them intense despair.

    At the same time. It is true. Taking that many medicationd for the rest of your life is no field day for the human body. A lot of drug companies do the opposite by advertising HIV drugs with shiny happy smiling people obviously not suffering any side effects.

    Regarding anal cancer - HPV has already been proven to increase the risk of anal cancer. And I would bet most sexually active men, gay and straight, have HPV. The fact that HPV has been so ignored among men is pretty bad. You hear about it a lot moe regarding women for obvious reasons - cervical cancer. But men should be treated for it too. Of course, it is too late for all of us to get the vaccine that is available for many strains of HPV.

    Anal cancer carries a lot of stigma. Farrah Fawcett had it. It was speculated it wa slinked to HPV but never mentioned or brought up in interviews, I'm guessing largely because of the stigma attached to it.

    Posted by: Tell It Like It Is | Dec 11, 2010 3:37:18 PM

  20. "There is already too much AIDSphobia in the community."

    If there is so much alleged "AIDSphobia" in the gay community, then why are HIV rates soaring? The CDC recently released a survey that revealed in 20% of gay/bi men in major U.S. is HIV+, with a full half of those not even aware.

    Yes, this is ad is depressing, because THE FACTS IT BROACHES ARE DEPRESSING.

    Sorry guys, I am 47, and I was there the first time around in the 1980's, when the initial reaction in "the community" was to excoriate the messenger (be it Randy Shilts, the CDC, or the New York Times) as well as to second-guess the message ("they're exaggerating! It's all hype!"). That is, until the body count became too high to ignore...and suddenly everybody was blaming Ronald Reagan for acting with the same jejune denial about AIDS that the gay community initially did.

    HIV is especially high with gay men under 30, but from what I've been observed, these same kids who are so casual about barebacking and other risky behaviors will shun guys who are commendably out in the open about being HIV+. There is something wrong with this picture.

    Posted by: Rick S. | Dec 11, 2010 4:50:07 PM

  21. Safety and awareness "fatigue" is certainly a problem. Whether its fighting HIV or making sure you put on your seat belt....over time the message is either integrated into one's psyche or its not. Teaching someone to "enjoy" putting on a seatbelt rather than showing them gory details of not doing so may not work in the short term, but as someone said here...scare tactics only work in the short run.

    I can't even imagine driving my car without a seat belt, but it took me a couple of big accidents to really drive that fact home for me. I wish people didn't have to learn by experience, but unfortunately that tends to be more common than not.

    The other issue I find are men over the age of 45 who pretty much ignore safe sex. Many think....even at 45, if I contract the disease now I'll still live into my 60's or 70's which is where many of them expect to die of natural causes anyway. So why fight it? HIV meds are capable of extending live out to an average of 25 extra years or more rather than the original 8 to 10 average life expectancy rate after initial diagnosis.

    For me, I can deal with the bodily issues of taking toxic drugs for the rest of my life, what gets me more is the emotional stigma attached with contracting HIV. Ads like this one don't make it any better.

    Posted by: Brian J. | Dec 11, 2010 5:18:30 PM

  22. @Brian J. "HIV meds are capable of extending live out to an average of 25 extra years or more rather than the original 8 to 10 average life expectancy rate after initial diagnosis."

    You're not helping any. Life expectancy can approach normal rates now, thanks to early diagnosis, access to medications, and healthy lifestyles. Throwing out an arbitrary number like 25 years just makes you look stupid.

    Posted by: Depressed | Dec 11, 2010 5:33:54 PM

  23. Depressed...

    I'm not stupid. Read it for yourself.

    Posted by: Brian J. | Dec 11, 2010 6:15:43 PM

  24. Oh and here's some more of my "stupid" evidence:

    Each of these articles quote with potential ARV medications an individual can POTENTIALLY extend one's lifespan up to 22-25 years or potentially more.

    Does that mean everyone will benefit that long? No. Does that mean people can relax? No. ARVs are no picnic, but with proper nutrition, exercise, and supplements a person with HIV has the POTENTIAL to live up to that amount of extra time.

    While I don't agree with ads like're the one who's not really helping here. People have to be shown that there is hope and there the possibility of living a fairly normal life after being diagnosed.

    Posted by: Brian J. | Dec 11, 2010 6:27:45 PM

  25. My point is that HIV negative people like you just assume that all HIV positive people like me are going to die before you, and that we all have an average number of years (25) left until we die. Each person is different. It's not fair to any of us to throw around an average number of years. Like I said, it all depends on how long we've been infected until we are diagnosed, our access to medicine, and our lifestyles. No one knows when any of us is going to die. If you were positive, you'd hate coming on here and reading some of the ignorant comments that I'm reading today.

    By the way, that article you posted sounded pretty awful and insulting... Saying that HIV positive people are a strain on the rest of the country because our meds are too expensive..? Please.

    Posted by: Depressed | Dec 11, 2010 6:40:02 PM

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