New York Times Examines Problems with ‘Misleading’ AIDS Advertising
The New York Times yesterday examined the problems associated with pharmaceutical companies' advertising and public service announcements for HIV/AIDS drugs. For example, a Merck ad for an AIDS drug depicted four mountain climbers "bursting with health," however, the FDA ordered the ads, along with other companies' AIDS drug ads, to be pulled because they were "not generally representative of HIV patients and do not adequately convey that these drugs neither cure HIV infection nor reduce its transmission." Kent Middleton, an advertising professor at the University of Georgia, said, "The standard for false or misleading advertisement is whether the ad makes a material statement that is likely to mislead the consumer. That's why when you get into the health field more statements are considered material, with greater consequences for consumers than candy advertisements or Coke ads." According to Ronald Valdiserri, deputy director of the CDC's National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention, advertising for HIV prevention and treatments has been different compared to other diseases because "almost everyone involved in fighting it -- prevention advocates, drug companies, politicians and even the United Nations -- has from the first crafted images of the illness to suit a specific set of needs." For example, the Times reports that the 1987 award-winning America Responds to AIDS prevention campaign, which "helped catapult the disease into the public consciousness," was "somewhat misleading." Although the message was "technically correct," the Times notes that pressure from conservative lawmakers forced the campaign to remove any reference to drug use and sexual orientation. A similar situation may occur in the United Nations' plan to launch a campaign that will "reach almost every nation on earth." Because of pressure from some conservative states, including Egypt, Sudan and the Vatican, the campaign will not mention prostitutes or gays, even though those groups "constitute a large portion of the infected" (Blair, New York Times, 8/5).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.