Utah HIV/AIDS Group Rejects Federal Funding Because of Issues With Prevention Ads
The Utah AIDS Foundation recently decided to forgo federal funding because of issues surrounding prevention advertisements, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. According to the Tribune, the group's ads used to focus on condoms, but "its latest federally funded HIV prevention messages have been blander" and focus on testing. "We weren't talking about using condoms" in the federally funded ads, the foundation's Executive Director Stan Penfold said, adding, "We weren't being blunt (about) what behaviors put you at risk for HIV. It just felt like we were compromising our mission and compromising the population we're trying to serve." According to the Tribune, the foundation sees a connection between the "blander" ads and the increase in HIV/AIDS rates in Salt Lake County this year.
Since 2002, the foundation has accepted about $500,000 in HIV prevention funds from CDC to develop ads and other programs approved by the Utah Department of Health. According to the Tribune, the state has rejected some "sexually suggestive" ads aimed at men who have sex with men. The foundation this year is rejecting an $87,000 grant and instead is aiming to gain donor support for its new campaign and other prevention programs. The new ads are still being developed and hope to normalize condom use, the Tribune reports. A focus group of MSM recently praised the ideas promoted in the ads, Penfold said, adding that the group is an important audience because it makes up a large portion of new HIV cases in the state.
The Utah health department allocates about $1 million annually in federal HIV/AIDS funding to groups in the state and has been promoting tests for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Although Penfold said that the health department would "absolutely not" approve its new campaign, department public information officer Tom Hudachko said the department is not prohibited from promoting condoms and does not have rules related to contraception. "Condoms, when combined with testing, are an efficient public health tool," Hudachko said, adding, "It'd be pretty silly on our part to have a policy that would restrict anyone from using the word 'condom.'" In addition, the state does have an objection to ads when content "detracts" from prevention messages, according to Hudachko (May, Salk Lake Tribune, 6/2).