Some ads have been popping up in the San Francisco subway system, particularly at Castro Station, that attempt to reinvigorate the public’s fear of HIV while also trying to imitate a Lifetime movie, and ignore the existence of PrEP.
These ads likely come from the mind of AIDS Healthcare Foundation director/crypt keeper Michael Weinstein and his marketing team, who are currently being sued by three whistleblowers, including retired porn star Collin O’Neal, a.k.a. Shawn Loftis. There’s an African American hetero version too, which you can see below, but in the gay version you see a frightened, young blond man, pre- or post-fucking, clutching a pillow and turned away from his stern, evil looking, possibly infected partner.
Recent media discussion of Truvada/PrEP and the low instances of HIV transmission when a positive partner is in treatment and undetectable have perhaps served to create some complacency around the disease in the gay community. But doesn’t it seem irresponsible to turn this all into a Lifetime movie about an untrustworthy boyfriend who wants to have bareback sex with you?
Doesn’t it also seem like these ads are basically just trying to funnel at-risk individuals to AHF testing centers from which, as the recent lawsuit contends, they’d likely be given incentives to then go to AHF clinics for treatment, thereby protecting the organization’s bottom line, and funding.
Everyone has been fairly baffled by Weinstein’s dismissal of scientific evidence about the effectiveness of PrEP, and referring to it as a “party drug,” but it seems likely from his behavior over years as head of the AHF that it’s all financially motivated.
As a former L.A. County planning commission member tells it, via The Body blog, “Michael never showed up to Planning Council meetings unless there was grant money on the table. And then if things didn’t go his way, his first response was to say ‘we will sue you!’ The other agencies didn’t have the resources to respond to a lawsuit, so he would get his way.”
Also, as many friends on Facebook have already pointed out about the new subway ad, it’s inherently poz-phobic, using fear to say “HIV will ruin your life,” rather than encouraging awareness, safety, testing, and/or PrEP.
Anyway, great work, AHF! Way to take us back two decades in HIV awareness.