Tagged with Lawrence Springborg

Grim reaper ads a ‘missed opportunity’

The Queensland Association for Healthy Communities has responded to the state government’s new HIV prevention scare campaign, calling it a ‘missed opportunity’ in an article in the Star Observer.

“While we welcome increased public attention to HIV, this is a missed opportunity the update people on the reality of living with HIV today,” [QAHC CEO Paul] Martin said.

“It is also a missed opportunity to encourage people who may be at risk to come forward for testing and treatment and to inform and remind people how to prevent transmission of HIV.”

Responding to the criticism of the ad, Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said, “We needed a campaign that would reach everybody.”

Well, no. While ‘everybody’ should be aware of HIV and take steps to prevent themselves, not ‘everybody’ is at equal risk. More than 80% of people diagnosed in Queensland are gay men, which is why previous Queensland governments funded QAHC to do prevention work targeted at gay men. Spending a half-million dollars on a TV campaign to tell ‘everybody’ about HIV is not a cost-effective way to educate people who are at real risk.

Yours truly also gets a mention in the story:

Local LGBTI community member Paul Kidd released his own version of the new commercial on YouTube supporting QAHC, titled ‘Lawrence Springborg Shouldn’t Be Making This Ad’.

Read the full Star Observer article, or my earlier post on this subject, with my remixed version of the video.

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Dude with a scythe

The Grim Reaper TV advertisement has cast a shadow over the HIV response since it was first aired more than a quarter century ago. The original ad, with its foreboding “Always use a condom — always” tagline and grim predictions that AIDS could “kill more Australians than World War Two,” has often been credited with raising awareness of HIV in Australia. It’s also been rightly criticised for having the unintended consequence of increasing stigma around HIV and towards gay men.

Those surreal bowling reapers were supposed to represent death, but too many people read them as representing gay men, hurling a deadly virus at the innocent women and kids at the end of the alley. The ad fed into a climate of fear and hysteria and generated a great deal of hateful commentary towards gay men and those living with HIV, who were seen as the diseased vectors of a plague that at the time seemed certain to sweep through the ‘innocent victims’ of the heterosexual community.

Despite its many failings, we’ve never quite shaken off Mister Grim and his bowling buddies. The ad is so widely believed to have been a smashing success that barely a year has gone by in the last quarter century when some ill-informed government minister or pundit calls for a ‘new grim reaper campaign’ to scare people into behaving more sensibly. Luckily, to date those calls have been largely resisted.

All that changed this last weekend with the launch of We Shouldn’t Be Making This Advert, a new TV advertisement from the Queensland government, the first evidence we’ve seen of its new ‘in-house’ approach to HIV prevention following the shock de-funding of the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities. And there, proud as punch, is our old friend Grimsby, not looking a day older despite the intervening decades, ready to scare us all back into using condoms.

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