Hollywood Film Industry Ignores HIV/AIDS Pandemic, Study Says
The Hollywood film industry fails to show the negative consequences of unprotected sex, such as unplanned pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, according to a study published in the October issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, the Guardian reports. Researcher Hasantha Gunasekera and colleagues from the University of Sydney-School of Public Health examined a September 2003 list of the 200 most popular films since the start of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in 1983 as ranked by the Internet Movie Database in March 2004 (Boseley, Guardian, 10/3). Animated features, films acceptable for children and movies not about humans were excluded, leaving 87 movies and 53 episodes of sex to be reviewed. According to researchers, in 98% of the sexual episodes -- all of which could have caused pregnancy -- no birth control was referenced or used. In the one scene where a condom was used, it was a reference only to birth control. "The motion picture industry should be encouraged to depict safer sex practices and the real consequences of unprotected sex," Gunasekera said, adding that none of the films referenced "important consequences of unsafe sex, such as HIV transmission, spread of STDs or unwanted pregnancy" (Lawless, Associated Press, 10/3). However, some experts say it is wrong to expect the film industry to convey public health messages, according to London's Times. "There is a danger of confusing propaganda with entertainment," Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at Kent State University, said, adding, "There is an unhealthy tendency to subjugate films to the dictates of raising public awareness. To confuse these two roles will just create bad art" (Templeton, London's Times, 10/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.