When it comes to raising awareness of HIV/AIDS, Sir Nick Partridge, the chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, says it’s unlikely that a large-scale television campaign will feature again on British screens in today’s tough economic climate.
Sir Nick made the comments in an interview about HIV infection rates in Brighton and Hove to the Argus newspaper directly after last weekend’s World AIDS Day.
Almost one in every 100 people aged 15 to 59 in Brighton and Hove is HIV positive and the figure is around one in six for gay men in the city.
When asked about the tombstone adverts of the 1980s, which famously used shock tactics to publicise the dangers of the virus, Sir Nick said:
“In the 1980s AIDS was new and it came as a profound shock to the world. Sex had become much safer and the contraceptive pill had freed women from the fear of unwanted pregnancy.
“That shock resulted in a huge media campaign to help tackle the problem and support people who were getting sick and dying.
“But it was never going to be possible to sustain that level of fear”.
Sir Nick added: “The tombstone ads were appropriate for their time but things are so different now.
“The priority is to let people know that HIV is extremely prevalent in Brighton and Hove but there are now excellent drugs that will enable people to live full lives”.
Last week, human rights activist Peter Tatchell called for the return of safer-sex TV adverts as figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) showed a record number of gay and bisexual men were diagnosed with HIV in 2011.
However, Sir Nick believes that constrained public finances means it is no longer possible to replicate a TV campaign that is similar to the original Tombstone initiative.
Instead, he argues that it is more sensible to use non-TV advertising platforms such as “the gay media” and LGBT venues.