Los Angeles Group Launches HIV/AIDS Prevention Campaign Targeting MSM
The L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center has launched an advertisement campaign that describes HIV as a "gay disease" in an effort to target men who have sex with men who have become complacent about HIV/AIDS, the Los Angeles Times reports. Supporters of the campaign -- which uses the tag line "Own It. End It." on billboards and in magazines -- say the focus on women and other vulnerable groups in the fight against HIV/AIDS has left many MSM with a false sense of protection from the disease, even though they still account for the majority people living with the virus in the U.S. and Europe (Bernstein, Los Angeles Times, 9/30). "A very alarming silence has descended over our community with regards to HIV and AIDS," Lorri Jean, chief executive of the Gay and Lesbian Center, said, adding, "We believe that most people in our community do not understand the degree to which the epidemic continues to be in Los Angeles largely an epidemic among gay and bisexual men" (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/30). According to the Times, about 75% of HIV cases in Los Angeles County occur among MSM, which is "somewhat at odds with data from other parts of the country," where HIV cases are increasing among women and injection drug users. Data from CDC show that MSM account from 45% to 50% of recent HIV cases nationwide. Jean said the aim of the campaign is to prompt a dialogue and reinvigorate advocacy among the MSM community rather than detract from efforts to reach vulnerable people outside the community. However, some AIDS advocates have expressed concern that the campaign will fuel stigma surrounding the disease and make women and heterosexual men reluctant to seek testing and treatment. AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein criticized the campaign, saying that worldwide, heterosexuals are most at risk of HIV transmission. Some advocates also are concerned that the campaign excludes MSM who do not consider themselves gay. In addition, some advocates worry that the campaign could undermine efforts to reduce the stigma of HIV among blacks. Myles Spar, director of an HIV program in a Los Angeles-based clinic, said the campaign should run alongside similar messages targeting other vulnerable groups (Los Angeles Times, 9/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.