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Author Topic: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention  (Read 4077 times)

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Offline ChaplinGuy

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Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« on: December 12, 2006, 10:26:06 AM »

I know that many here have postulated about this issue before. But today, I was particularly struck reading the AIDS coverage on the New York Times web site. Thus, I am bringing it up again.

We cannot possibly begin to win the PR and education wars for AIDS prevention in the U.S. unless the media starts stripping away the "Africanism" of HIV/AIDS. While I respect the Times as one of the last true international news publications, I was somewhat awed to note that most (if not all) of its coverage and images about AIDS were about African struggles with the disease.

This, I do believe, relates somewhat directly to my situation. I cannot say that I became positive because of this media filter. But I do think that it played a role in my mental approach to contracting the virus. As someone who studied African politics in graduate school, I know that my thinking was too narrow, freely preaching that HIV was not a U.S. problem and that Africa was "different" because cultural and sexual politics made it easy to spread all diseases.

That isn't to say that this is not still true. But if you stop and consider the other kinds of diseases that we associate as "African" in application (malaria, TB, etc) it seems that we encounter diseases that are indeed rarely (if ever) seen in U.S. patients. But this is clearly not the case with HIV. By lumping in HIV/AIDS to this aesthetic of Africa's plight, we risk becoming desensitized to the risks that HIV still poses in America. It becomes, in effect, another rarity that only impacts far off places.

Unlike malaria and TB, HIV is not an African disease. Yes, its numbers in the sub-Saharan region seem insurmountable next to the developed world. However, by assigning HIV a geographic stigma we are already back to the days when straight men and women in the U.S. assumed that this was solely a gay disease.

Offline alisenjafi

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2006, 10:51:07 AM »
Considering that now from my understanding India has surpassed South Africa with the largest percentage of HIV cases, I have to agree.  When the whole Red project started up, I had written to the group that while this is a noble cause here in America PWA and HIV are expected to live on a pittance.
Of course no reply.
Whether the Third world or minorities ( including gay white men) this disease will always be viewed - sold - as " not in my backyard")
How interesting if it turned out the not so rev Tom Haggard was infected!
Johnny
"You shut your mouth
how can you say
I go about things the wrong way
I am human and I need to be loved
just like everybody else does"
The Smiths

Offline woodshere

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2006, 01:25:20 PM »
I just saw something in the past couple of days about the RED PROJECT and thought wow, wouldn't it be nice to include the US in this project.  It really does bother me that so much focus is on Africa and soon Asia.  Is it perhaps that in the US it is mostly still seen as a Gay problem and in other countries it is seen as devastating all people of a country?  Many of us are fortunate to have great jobs and the good health to still do them.  Some of us have great insurance and access to outstanding doctors.  But for each of us that have those things there is at least one or more who doesn't.  Not sure how to get some attention, but it is definitely needed.
"Let us give pubicity to HV/AIDS and not hide it..." "One of the things destroying people with AIDS is the stigma we attach to it."   Nelson Mandela

Offline ChaplinGuy

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2006, 02:00:48 PM »

I came across the text of this speech from Senator Obama in my research on his looming presidential prospects. In keeping with the topic of this thread, I was again struck by his emphasis on the African issue and little to no discussion of HIV/AIDS here at home:

http://obama.senate.gov/speech/061201-race_against_time_-_world_aids_day_speech/index.html

Offline woodshere

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2006, 03:11:35 PM »
He certainly is a religious man.  What he did say about the US and HIV/AIDS was good, as well as not to blame those who become infected for their behavior.  However, i think most of the speech was geared toward evangelicals in an effort to prove he is a man of faith.

It might be time for a radical movement in the US again.
"Let us give pubicity to HV/AIDS and not hide it..." "One of the things destroying people with AIDS is the stigma we attach to it."   Nelson Mandela

Offline Cliff

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2006, 03:38:04 PM »
HIV does disproportantely affect certain regions in the world (not just Africa).  What purpose does it serve to suggest otherwise?  You can have a message that HIV impacts numerous communities, without ignoring the dispropornate impect the disease has to certain communities, countries and regions.

I think there is plenty of focus on HIV in the US (both treatment and prevention).  Look at all the debate and discussion in Congress on restructuring Ryan White.  Look at how much the government spends on HIV care in the US.  Look at all the extra services people with HIV can get, that you can't get for other diseases.  Look at the amount of money the government (and private organizations) spends on HIV prevention.  I think it's an oversimplification of the issue to suggest that our government, (or any major western government), only cares about HIV in Africa.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  If you think Africa is the darling child of HIV, then that's all you will see.  You will ignore the vast amount of resources provided to HIV and AIDS in the US (and in Europe).

Offline poet

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2006, 04:22:28 PM »
To be honest, here, how can we, as Americans, claim that given what the conditions are in Africa and other developing nations, we are being deprived hiv care by comparison.  Is this not, perhaps, the problem, that the situation in other nations is so desperate, drugs prescribed by unavailiable, healthcare such as it is, unreachable to so vastly many, that our focus is wrong.  It isn't.  The problem includes the United States, but look at what most of us- and, I understand that this also means not ALL of us- can get via ADAP, via Ryan White, via aids service organisations. 

Then, yes, we have the 'gay' problem.  We have a history in which the CDC tried to make it a non-gay problem, but it didn't stick, did it?  The numbers showed that it was a 'gay' problem and a drug use problem and that doesn't play well outside of certain areas in the U.S.  The New York TIMES has a history of being antigay until recent times.  And don't we have a problem policing our own, witness the bug chasers, the barebacking sites.  I wish we could flip pr around and start showing hiv patients who are volunteering in their community, giving back as much as they can despite being positive, thanks to U.S. assistance.  Because without the deaths, the toll, the cost of losing so many which some of us grew up with, it is hard to keep Ryan White there, it is hard to complain... by comparison.  Win
Winthrop Smith has published three collections of poetry: Ghetto: From The First Five; The Weigh-In: Collected Poems; Skin Check: New York Poems.  The last was published in December 2006.  He has a work-in-progress underway titled Starting Positions.

Offline ChaplinGuy

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2006, 04:28:24 PM »
Thanks for your reply, Cliff. I was expecting something along those lines from you. I think, however, you are missing my point - which is that it is easy for people to associate an aesthetic or look or image of a problem as not looking like or representing them. You cannot disagree that today mass media is the most powerful force by which such is shaped.

I think that this is simultaneously one of the reasons why images of HIV/AIDS can be so powerful - because it speaks without words. The snag in this, however, is when we begin to too closely associate with a specific image or notion about the disease. And because the U.S. is so far removed from the images and cultural aesthetic of Third World Africa, it is that much easier for us Americans to buy a notion of "that is not here" - and reduce any perceived risk.

I agree with many of your points, however not in the context of my post. It is a shame, but most of us Americans (and studies show most humans in general) tend to respond to/internalize the visuals that flash by us. This is just another double-edged sword in the overall problems we face with preventing the spread of this disease.

Thanks for your comments.

Offline woodshere

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2006, 04:37:18 PM »
Cliff and Poet,
You bring up great points.  I never meant to say poor US hiv-ers everything is going to Africa.  If you compared US govt money spent on HIV programs in this country to that money the US spends on HIV programs  throughout the world, I have no doubt the international money would be far less.  However, I am concerned that with media attention focusing so much on Africa and soon India, the general population will become desensitized to those of us here in the US.  I was just at a 2 day HIV training for medical social workers and was shocked by the lack of knowledge they had.  We must continue to educate people here and work to lessen the negative stigma of being HIV+ that is very much there for those of us who live outside metropolitan areas.
Woods
"Let us give pubicity to HV/AIDS and not hide it..." "One of the things destroying people with AIDS is the stigma we attach to it."   Nelson Mandela

Offline fearless

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2006, 05:09:22 PM »
Officials calculate that there are 5.4 million of South Africa's 45 million population in HIV-positive. Some 1.8 million have already died and life expectancy dropped from 63 in 1990 to 51 this year largely due to the epidemic.

Be forgiving, be grateful, be optimistic

Offline alisenjafi

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2006, 05:47:46 PM »
What the message is , is not that Africa doesn't deserve help, is that nice  folk in America  don't get HIV- this post from what I understand is how America is being fed the notion that str8 people here won't get infected.
One  just needs to read the news about the so called super HIV to see how colored the journalism here is towards the disease. The same group that is happy to drum up the down low as to the only reason African American women are getting infected.

One also can look to to the in house fighting over Ryan White to see how precarious Americans with HIV ( downgraded to manageable) are having it.

On another point I bought up what happens when India is in and Africa becomes so 20th century? it begs the question should people donate to a cause ( either here or any other part of the world) if these people are portrayed as not caring if they are infected or not - the bug chaser syndrome.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2006, 05:58:04 PM by alisenjafi »
"You shut your mouth
how can you say
I go about things the wrong way
I am human and I need to be loved
just like everybody else does"
The Smiths

Offline Cliff

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #11 on: December 12, 2006, 06:17:18 PM »
I think, however, you are missing my point - which is that it is easy for people to associate an aesthetic or look or image of a problem as not looking like or representing them. You cannot disagree that today mass media is the most powerful force by which such is shaped.
I agree that it is human nature for people to generalize issues and images.  I'm not an expert on media and how it influences behaviour, but my guess is that people are bombarded with conflicting messages and their biases and beliefs impact how they interpret those messages (i.e., which ones they choose to reject and which ones they retain).  I would also guess that different people (communities) react differently to the same message.  I don't know where I'm getting at here, except that to suggest that an image of a person dying of AIDS in Africa will mean different things to different people.  I wonder (as in doubt) that this is an effective prevention campaign, because it's difficult for someone not in Africa to associate themselves with a dying African (as you suggest).  Does this mean that our message is failing, because of these conflicting (mostly rejected) images of HIV?  I don't know.  That's where I have a hard time believing a change will make much of a difference.  You take away (hypothetically) the image of Africa from HIV and you'll still end up with groups who don't believe they are at risk, because that image will be substituted with another (alien) group..be that gay white male, black, brown, prostitutes, drug addicts, etc..

Offline Eldon

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #12 on: December 12, 2006, 09:00:14 PM »
Hey Chaplin...

It is all so true as to who, what, when, where, why, and how the media broadcasts a certain image about HIV/AIDS.

What do you suggest would be an effective effort or resource in order to make changes on a Global Scale with the impact of the media concerning HIV/AIDS prevention?


Happy Holidays!

Offline tsw923

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #13 on: December 12, 2006, 10:58:28 PM »
I think you all bring up good points, but here is something else to consider.  When the media discusses AIDS in Africa, they discuss (and show pictures) of the children who are orphaned by AIDS, they show pictures of children who contracted HIV from their parents.  It pulls on the heart-strings and allows those that donate to feel like they are 'helping the children'.  The issue of sexual transmission is rarely discussed. 

In contrast here, we don't show those images mostly because the children's grand parents or relatives take them in.  I believe POZ had an article on this fact stating that the US state governments did not help these struggling family members with bills or housing etc.  Since our AIDS activist groups don't necessarily put up images of orphaned kids, rather pictures of 'the new face of AIDS', we open up the various sexual transmission issues again.  That makes it something that is hard for the media to sell.  The evangelists and the moral right don't want to support or appear to condone sexual activity (babies come from the stork people!!  :o)  So they can't/won't support it.  According to them, though most will not admit it, in many ways, HIV/AIDs is our punishment for our immoral behavior.... And by that I mean both gay/lesbian and premarital 'straight' sex and/or drug use.  Truly, the only reason some people feel they can 'support' black women (who had better be married by the way) with HIV is to propagate this whole 'down low' thing. 

The media here has nothing to spin.  Any avenue they take will alienate (piss off) some group.  Apple can't ask consumers to buy red ipods for the HIV+ in the US because someone somewhere will complain that Apple is encouraging their children to have sex and/or take drugs.  But they can encourage kids to help those poor orphans in Africa who got HIV from their horrible parents....

:getting off my soapbox now:
Help find a cure for leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood-related cancers by sponsoring me as I walk a 1/2 marathon as a part of the Maryland chapter of Team in Training.  To find out more and to donate, please click on the following site:  http://www.active.com/donate/tntmd/tswtntmd

Offline Jeffreyj

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #14 on: December 12, 2006, 11:59:22 PM »
It is unfair to compare aids in Africa vs. Aids in America. We have so much more in the way of monies to effective battle aids here in the USA. Thanks in large part to the Ryan White Act, I would challenge anyone to find a single person here in the US who is not able to get the drugs and the care that they need to survive. Africa has so much less it is almost a crime. There is no infrastructure in their health care system. Hell, they don't even have scales to weigh babies for God's sake. So any attention sent their way much needed and well deserved. We live our lives thousands of miles away from Africa, and really have little "feel" for what those poor, disadvantaged people have to deal with.
 They really are DECADES behind us: They have virtually no computer system for record keeping, and very poor sanitation, the list goes on and on. So, I find it difficult to condemn any media attention that they receive. Entire generations of men have been wiped out. Where that may have been true here in the USA in the mid 80's, certainly measures have been effective in dealing with the problem here. The same cannot be said of Africa. They need so much help. And I'm all for any positive media attention that is bestowed upon them. They so desperately need it.
We have it pretty dammed good here in the USA. I for one, have been so grateful. Every day I fell blessed to have my meds-paid for by none other then Ryan white. Until every African has access to meds like we do here in the USA, the media, and all of us should never rest.

Maybe we all need to be more greatful for what we do have.
Positive since 1985

Offline Esquare

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #15 on: December 13, 2006, 12:45:35 AM »
I really think that here in the southern US that most people think that you only get HIV if you are a homosexual or are black. Well I'm living proof that neither is the case.

Offline GSOgymrat

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #16 on: December 13, 2006, 06:14:36 AM »
I guess I take issue with the idea that the media is to blame for people in the US becoming infected with HIV. How many adult American could honestly say they had no idea you could contract HIV by having sex without a condom? Educating people about health issues is important but the media can't babysit everyone.

On a tangent, Time magazine recently had an interesting article of how people worry about the wrong things. They pointed out that people have high anxiety about AIDS because it kills you slowly rather than a heart attack because it's over quickly, even though heart disease kills 50 times more Americans a year than AIDS. We also worry about multiple deaths, such as a terrorist bombing, even though the chances are minuscule compared with being in an auto accident.

Offline alisenjafi

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #17 on: December 13, 2006, 08:22:04 AM »
Again the point isn't Africa vs USA but how the media as one of the only sources of HIV awareness spreads info either good or bad.
When I wrote the Red Project it wasn't to bitch about giving money to Africa, but at the time how this Republican caring administration was deconstructing Ryan White.
Much like the war in Iraq people are choosing what they want to focus on and make it an issue whether it was the issue or not.
Gee imagine if for every article on AIDS in Africa we had one on how to prevent AIDS in America- and i am not talking those wedding rings  Bush promotes. Does Apple promote AIDS awareness in America? I don't recall ever seeing any.
I believe this is the crux of this thread.
Johnny
« Last Edit: December 13, 2006, 08:26:27 AM by alisenjafi »
"You shut your mouth
how can you say
I go about things the wrong way
I am human and I need to be loved
just like everybody else does"
The Smiths

Offline poet

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #18 on: December 13, 2006, 11:53:35 AM »
Way back in the dark ages, the coverage of AIDS in America was on the loss of talent (Michael Bennet/Dream Girls, a novelist whose first- and, of course, last- collection of short stories came out hours before his death, the artist, Patrick Angus, who allowed me to use his drawings in my first book and back to all the famous names from that time) and the media used this bold reality to paint what AIDS was doing to America, obviously touching the gay community, but, because of the presence of gay men in the lives of everyday Americans, spreading out and demanding action.  We don't have that picture to offer any longer.  So perhaps we need a new picture to offer to the press which will be as empowering for efforts here.  Win
Winthrop Smith has published three collections of poetry: Ghetto: From The First Five; The Weigh-In: Collected Poems; Skin Check: New York Poems.  The last was published in December 2006.  He has a work-in-progress underway titled Starting Positions.

Offline tsw923

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #19 on: December 14, 2006, 12:26:51 AM »
Johnny -- I think you hit the nail on the head and Poet you as well.  If we want the media's 'help' or focus, we have to give them something to really focus on and bring to the public's attention.
Help find a cure for leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood-related cancers by sponsoring me as I walk a 1/2 marathon as a part of the Maryland chapter of Team in Training.  To find out more and to donate, please click on the following site:  http://www.active.com/donate/tntmd/tswtntmd

Offline alisenjafi

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #20 on: December 14, 2006, 07:48:15 AM »
On the Today show Al (Always stuffing my face ) Roker was discrediting the late actor Peter Boyle as John Lennon's best man- which Matt (always so smug) Lauer says he thought it was the other way around. Al says matter of factly "no" Anyone watching this is going to come away with wrong info- not that that was important but
how Rachel Ray, Martha Stewart,  Ellen D the View etc never devote anything of substance to AIDS in America - and not the latest fad to find the new face of Aids either- I still hear gay white guys aren't immune.

Maybe we should pool ourselves together and every day write one show to do a piece on HIV , that every day is AIDS day when you are infected or diagnosed. Instead of waiting for some celebrity coming forward!
J
« Last Edit: December 14, 2006, 07:58:13 AM by alisenjafi »
"You shut your mouth
how can you say
I go about things the wrong way
I am human and I need to be loved
just like everybody else does"
The Smiths

Offline Andy Velez

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #21 on: December 14, 2006, 10:17:57 AM »
This epidemic cannot be gotten under control until there are realistic prevention programs in place, both here in the U.S. and abroad. Otherwise the newly infected will continue to outpace meds and any other aid programs. That's where we're at right today.

The religiously right-driven US programs emphasize abstinence and fidelity as the #1 and #2 responses, with condoms a lame last on the list. Monies are being denied to organizations which emphasize condoms and sexually explicit information to prevent infection. As far as I am concerned this policy is one of murderous neglect when considered in terms of the realities of human behavior.

This is a tragic situation here in the US, and our policy has affected how we offer financial aid for programs around the world.

What's it going to take for this to change? Do we have to wait another 2 years and maybe get a real majority in Congress and then find some way of galvanizing them to understand what needs to be changed? Too much time a-wasting and 50% of new infections here in people 25 or under.

It wouldn't even take more money for better prevention programs, simply an informed re-direction of the efforts and resources.

Anyone for a revolution?

Andy Velez

Offline woodshere

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #22 on: December 14, 2006, 10:43:15 AM »
YEAH, but how does one start a revolution???

BTW, what a great thread!

Woods
"Let us give pubicity to HV/AIDS and not hide it..." "One of the things destroying people with AIDS is the stigma we attach to it."   Nelson Mandela

Offline salrkcj

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Re: Why we are losing the media war on U.S. AIDS prevention
« Reply #23 on: December 14, 2006, 11:43:21 AM »
This is a great discussion!
OMG  I want to recruit all of you!

The National AIDS Fund released a paper this year to address just this point.  I am including a link here  http://www.aidsfund.org/naf/aboutus/display.cfm?contentid=403
If the link doesn't work  check out www.aidsfund.org click on about us and select publications.  The paper is called 1 Epidemic.  OK that's the end of my self-promoting pitch! 
Honestly though, it's great to hear each of your voices echoing some of the same concerns that we battle on a daily basis in creating visibility for domestic initiatives.  You made my week! 
I would love to hear from anyone who is interested in working with me to DO something about it  :) 
Thanks ChaplinGuy for kicking this off and to all of you for inspiring me in this critical work.
Kevin
kjones@aidsfund.org

 


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