”HIV is a gay disease. Own It. End It”
These are the words at the front of a new controversial advertisement campaign dividing opinion within the gay community.
The L.A Gay and Lesbian Center has launched an extensive campaign to provoke debate within the gay community. The controversial advert hopes to highlight what they see as a vast complacency within the gay community surrounding the issue of HIV/AIDS.
The campaign includes huge billboards erected across the city as well as magazine ads and posters in West Hollywood.
The groups statement is a complete transition from years of campaigning against the stereotypical view that homosexual men are promiscuous, unsafe and most likely to become infected.
It has been argued that the campaign, whilst achieving its desired shock value will further stigmatise those gay men living with the disease.
Michael Weinstein, head of Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, denied that AIDS was a “gay” disease. “It is a disease of the immune system,” he told the L.A Times .
Despite the controversy, the group insist that their campaign is supported by fact. L.A public health officials note three out of four HIV cases are the result of gay sex.
In Los Angeles, gay and bisexual men make up less than 7% of the population yet account for more than 75% of those living with HIV and AIDS.
Chief Executive Officer of L.A. Gay Lesbian Centre Lorri L. Jean said on the group website that ”we have so effectively de-coupled the epidemic from the word “gay” that most of us don’t even know the degree to which we are impacted.”
In a more light hearted manner, the groups website acknowledges that diseases cannot have sexual orientation, but insists the level to which gay men bear the brunt of the disease is enough to label the disease ‘gay’.
”Of course, gay and bisexual men are not the only people who get infected. Other historically marginalised populations are also being hit hard by the disease. But it is indisputable that in Los Angeles HIV has a hugely disproportionate affect upon gay and bisexual men of all races and ethnicities.”
The group insist they are simply being honest about the facts of HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles, and that there is absolutely no attributions of blame in the campaign.