Australian HIV/AIDS Prevention Campaign Includes Images of MSM, Information About Safer Sex
A new campaign aimed at reducing HIV/AIDS among men who have sex with men in the Australian state of Victoria launched on Thursday, The Age reports. The campaign will feature four advertisements in two newspapers targeted toward the MSM community that feature MSM having sex along with a dialogue box discussing safer-sex issues, according to The Age.
The decision to use images of MSM having sex was based on focus-group discussions with MSM about what they would respond to, Mike Kennedy -- executive director of Victorian AIDS Council, which organized the campaign -- said. "We're doing it not because we're trying to push the envelope but because the focus groups are telling us that this is what we need to do to have the conversation we need to have," Kennedy said. He added that the campaign also will include a more public message calling on people in the state to be tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. In addition, as part of the campaign, tea towels featuring the images along with safer-sex messages about condom use and water-based lubricants will be distributed at gay festivals.
According to The Age, the campaign comes as HIV cases in the state have reached a 20-year high. The Victoria Department of Human Services in 2006 received reports of 334 new HIV cases -- a 17% increase over the 285 cases reported in 2005 and the highest number since 1987. Sharon Lewin, director of the infectious disease unit at Alfred Hospital in Victoria, said the campaign seems to be targeting MSM in their 30s who are having casual, unprotected sex. Lewin added that new HIV cases are "predominantly occurring" in this group. Lewin said that a "very targeted and explicit safe-sex campaign" in New South Wales was "quite effective," adding that New South Wales has not had an increase in HIV cases since the campaign began.
Doug Pollard -- news editor for BNews, which will feature the ads -- said the new campaign is following criticism from members of the MSM community who did not believe VAC was doing enough to address the HIV/AIDS situation. Pollard added the BNews staff decided the HIV prevention messages are too serious to not be addressed (Medew, The Age, 1/10).