Investigation of Stop AIDS Project Politically Motivated, Opinion Piece Says
"Conservative lawmakers are attacking gay community programs [such as San Francisco's Stop AIDS Project] with an intensity rarely seen since the Reagan years," Dave Ford, a writer and former spokesperson for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, writes in a San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece, adding, "It smacks of cultural backsliding" and "cheap politicizing." The CDC, at the behest of Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), last week visited the Stop AIDS Project to determine whether the group uses federal money to support HIV/AIDS awareness programs that fail to meet federal obscenity standards and encourage sexual activity. "Communicating AIDS-prevention messages is tricky," Ford states, noting that the Stop AIDS Project is trying to reach a "tough demographic" -- men who have sex with men, particularly minority men. To reach this demographic, "you have to talk about sex. And like all good advertising, your campaign has to cut through the daily info-overload clutter," Ford says, noting that this takes "guerilla" tactics such as posters at bus shelters, flyers in night clubs and advertisements above urinals. Such campaigns "don't ipso facto encourage sexual activity," he states, saying that the programs hope to "encourage certain precautions during sexual activity." He acknowledges that there is some argument as to whether the campaigns, particularly the "pretty and sexy" posters, work. "But well-designed posters often are just one part of larger prevention campaigns that include facilitated talk groups, street outreach efforts and other means of reaching the target demographic," Ford says, noting that the posters are a "necessary component." Ford concludes that if conservative lawmakers are looking for a fight with gay organizations, they should be prepared. "The gay community and its allies can be really tough. The community's political muscle may have gone slightly flabby in the comfy 90s ... but gays and lesbians can be rugged as mountains and just as solid," he says (Ford, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.