AIDS Prevention Web Site Criticized for ‘Graphic’ Content
A health department in Michigan has "pulled its promotion" of a Midwest AIDS Prevention Project-designed Web site intended to provide free HIV home-testing kits to rural men who have sex with men, as some critics have called the site "pornographic," the AP/Detroit News reports. The Central Michigan Health Department initially endorsed the site and sent out a news release publicizing it, without first examining it. Agency Director Helen Lee said, "There's more than home-testing kits on [the site]," noting that although there are no photographs or illustrations, she was "concerned about the implications of promoting the material." The Web site uses graphic language that "reads like a steamy, explicit, romance novel" to portray fictional sexual encounters between men, but site designers say "it's the best way to promote a healthy lifestyle among rural, gay men." When viewers first visit the Web site, it displays a warning page explaining that it contains adult content and requires visitors to be 18 or older. Once the page is accessed, visitors can retrieve AIDS information, home tests and a resource list of lawyers, community groups, hotlines, bars and clubs. Although graphic, the fictional stories send the message that openly discussing HIV with potential sexual partners, using protection and getting tested are essential. Deb Szwejda, manager of the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Intervention Section at the Michigan Department of Community Health, calls the site "an effective way to reach an underserved population in a way they won't ignore." The Web site was funded by the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project, with the state providing 40% of the funding and spending $6,000 on the 200 HIV-testing kits the program is distributing (Moses, AP/Detroit News, 12/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.