I’ve written before about the high cost of stigmas surrounding HIV and AIDS. These stigmas create misinformation and fear, leading to laws criminalizing HIV and discrimination against people with HIV.
Yet, campaigns to prevent the spread of HIV sometimes latch onto fear tactics and talk about HIV in a way that is harmful and offensive. At the top of that list is the “It’s Never Just HIV” campaign, launched by the New York City Department of Health.
The “It’s Never Just HIV” campaign warns that if you get HIV, you’re more likely to get osteoporosis, dementia, and anal cancer. In a press release about the campaign, the Department of Health said the campaign is “an effort to combat complacency about HIV” and to encourage men who have sex with men to use protection to avoid spreading HIV. But the campaign doesn’t focus on encouraging condom use or telling people to get tested; instead, it uses graphic imagery to instill fear. It sends the message that life is hopeless for those who are HIV-positive, and that HIV-positive people can’t lead happy lives even if they take medications.