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GLAAD and GMHC Call on NYC Dept. of Health to Pull Harmful PSA

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GLAAD and GMHC, the nation’s oldest HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy provider,  yesterday called on the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to pull a sensationalistic and stigmatizing television public service announcement aimed at gay and bisexual men.

The PSA, which is intended to encourage condom usage among gay and bisexual men, claims that those with HIV face a higher risk of bone loss, dementia, and anal cancer.  While older adults living with HIV may be at greater risk of these conditions, the PSA creates a grim picture of what it is like to live with HIV that could further stigmatize HIV/AIDS, as well as gay and bisexual men.

“We know from our longstanding HIV prevention work that portraying gay and bisexual men as dispensing diseases is counterproductive,“  said Marjorie Hill, PhD, GMHC’s Chief Executive Officer.  “Studies have shown that using scare tactics is not effective.  Including gay men’s input, while recognizing their strength and resiliency, in the creation of HIV prevention education is effective.  Gay men are part of the prevention solution, not the problem.”

Both GLAAD and GMHC have reached out to the department to demand that the commercial be pulled and to offer assistance with framing the conversation around HIV/AIDS more accurately.

“While it’s extremely important that we continue to educate New Yorkers about HIV/AIDS prevention, the sensationalized nature of the commercial, including its tabloid-like fear tactics, misses the mark in fairly and accurately representing what it’s like to live with HIV/AIDS,” said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. “It’s our hope that the department will work with us to create a PSA that promotes safety and solutions, rather than stigma and stereotype."

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, a department spokesperson confirmed that the department would not pull the PSA saying: “In developing this video spot, we tested various approaches in focus groups. The spot was informed by that process and by lessons learned from our successful anti-smoking efforts. It was also carefully vetted for technical accuracy.”

The department also said that it "tested various approaches in focus groups,” and that  “the spot was informed by that process and by lessons learned from our successful anti-smoking efforts. "

GLAAD is continuing to reach out to the department to highlight the problematic and harmful elements of the PSA. We are also working to raise visibility and illustrate the concrete harms of inaccurate depictions of gay and bisexual men and HIV/AIDS.