San Francisco Will Not Ban AIDS Drug Ads, But Will Work with Drug Makers to Change Them
Following controversy surrounding "upbeat" AIDS drugs advertisements that depict healthy, active individuals, which some say "glamorize the disease and distort the reality of living with AIDS," San Francisco officials have decided not to ban the ads but rather to work to "persuade" pharmaceutical companies to change their strategies, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The decision came at the urging of an executive of the firm that contracts with the city to place ads on bus shelters, where many of the ads are posted. Board of Supervisors President Tom Ammiano, who yesterday held a hearing at City Hall on the issue, agreed to the proposal "for the time being" (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/13). Ammiano led the fight against the ads, saying, "I want it to stop being all about profit and more about prevention," referring to concerns that the advertising would mislead people into thinking risky behaviors are acceptable. Survive AIDS activist Jeff Getty likened the ads to those for tobacco and called the drug advertising "the Joe Camel ads of AIDS." A recent San Francisco Department of Public Health study found that 62% of 262 gay and straight men surveyed said the ads "influenced unsafe sex." But Kyra Lindemann, a spokesperson for Merck, which pays for several of the ads, said, "Very clearly, there needed to be a larger effort around so patients would be motivated to talk to their physicians about the drugs." One drug company has agreed not to use "buff" models in its ads, a "victory," according to Getty. In addition, Norwell, Mass.-based Serono, Inc., said Wednesday that it will include prevention messages on its future ads for Serostim, a human growth hormone used to "beef up the bodies of wasting AIDS patients." Serono does not market antiretrovrial drugs (Mason, AP/Contra Costa Times, 4/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.