‘Racy’ St. Louis HIV/AIDS Awareness Billboards Deemed ‘Inappropriate’ by Mayor, Will Be Pulled
St. Louis city officials yesterday announced the removal of several billboards designed to raise HIV/AIDS awareness because of "inappropriate" content, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The billboards, part of a $65,000 city campaign, will be taken down immediately, Jeff Rainford, Mayor Francis Slay's chief of staff, said. One of the billboards in question features two shirtless black men in an embrace with the caption: "Before loving begins, get tested. Know your HIV status" (Kohler, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 9/19). Another of the signs to be removed features a rolled-up condom. "That may be appropriate for a magazine, that may be appropriate for a newspaper, but that's not appropriate for a residential neighborhood," Rainford said, adding that Slay "agrees with the message of the billboards, but the way that message was communicated is what is inappropriate." He said procedural errors were to blame for the billboards' posting. The boards were approved by two "low-level" city health department employees without the consent of Mike Thomas, the department's director. "We've known for a long time that the health department is messed up, and this is just another example of this," Rainford added. Erise Williams, director of Blacks Assisting Blacks Against AIDS -- one of the groups involved in the campaign -- called the billboards "bold and innovative," adding that the city should not "succumb to the complaints or political pressure of a few people" if it is going to "really support" HIV prevention efforts (Stange, Associated Press, 9/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.