May #91 : It Takes Tube - by Ayana Byrd

POZ - Health, Life and HIV
Subscribe to:
POZ magazine
Join POZ: Facebook MySpace Twitter Pinterest
Tumblr Google+ Flickr MySpace
POZ Personals
Sign In / Join

Back to home » Archives » POZ Magazine issues

Table of Contents

Children of a Lesser God

Virgin With A Vengeance

Liver and Let Live

Submission: Impossible

Now They C It

Drug Trade

Insecurity Council

Lady Buggers

Latest Battles On Latex

Knock, Knock


Leap of Faith

Sunshine Therapy

AIDS Lyrics

Love Songs

It Takes Tube

Pot Shot

Show Us the Money

It Happened in May

Guru Gere“Gotcha??

Take This Mug and Stuff It

The Rub

Big Easy

Doctor Shocker!

Warts and All

On Your Feet

Brains, Not Beauty

Math Hysteria

Main Squeeze


Treat and Run

Double Agent

Unhappy Together

A Fish Called Tuna

Risk and Tell

Tell and Risk


Editor's Letter

Star Billings

Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

email print

May 2003

It Takes Tube

by Ayana Byrd

Can Viacom counter AIDS apathy the way TV tackled the issues of this sistah's 80's youth?

With issue oriented sitcoms and ABC after-school specials mere ghosts of the Reagan era, how is America, the land of the TV junkie, supposed to get its information? Raise your hand if you were one of countless kids who learned what an “inappropriate touch” was when Dudley wandered into the back of the bike shop on a very special two-part episode of Diff’rent Strokes. These days, aside from the occasional smallpox outbreak on ER, TV leaves education to teachers and parents.

Media giant Viacom wants to change all that for HIV. Linking up with the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, it kicked off 2003 by launching “Know HIV/ AIDS” (, a $120 million public-education initiative, including PSA and other ads in its radio, TV, online and outdoor properties. But the most impressive part of the campaign is that its TV and cable channels, including CBS, BET, UPN, MTV, VH1 and Showtime, incorporated HIV story lines into their programs in January and February.

Typically, the level of education, not to mention entertainment, varied from one series to the next. There was the predictable amount of adult finger-wagging, for example  in the Ted Danson vehicle Becker, in which the doctor persuades a promiscuous teen to use condoms. Another common theme was “What happens when supposedly reasonable adults are faced with taking an HIV test?” On UPN’s One on One, single dad Flex Barnes, who admits he has slept with “eight to nine women—add a zero,” has to take a test before his girlfriend will have sex with him. From there, we’re treated to a painful-to-watch parade of stereotypes. There’s the “extra-heterosexual” guy, “so straight that he doesn’t even make left turns,” who sees no need for a test. He is countered by the hands-on-her-hips, all-knowing sistah who won’t let a man near her until she has proof he is HIV-free. In the middle is poor Flex, whose anxiety as he waits five days for his results is only marginally convincing and even less entertaining. Of course he tests negative. Moral of the story? “Just wear a condom and you’ll be fine”—a little simplistic, but after all, it’s network.

Much fresher was UPN’s Girlfriends, a.k.a. the black Sex and the City, which blended HIV facts into its story in a way that didn’t remind me of a grade-school film strip. The fabulous Los Angeles ladies lend support to Toni, whose new man won’t do the do until she gets tested. (“What, does he think I have, cooties?” Toni protests.) More interesting was the subplot involving ’round-the-block Lynn and her new celibate boyfriend, played by spoken-word artist Saul Williams. His poem about millions of black women dying of AIDS worldwide opens Lynn’s eyes.

While the sitcoms showed characters for whom HIV was only a brief bother (no PWAs, please!), the dramas pushed harder. In a Star Trek: Enterprise episode, Vulcan T’Pol must deal with health-care workers’ prejudice against patients with a disease whose stigma mirrors AIDS’. But best was DC cop drama The District. In a two-episoder, we meet Jenny—young, poor, black, HIV positive and dying because federal cutbacks have blocked her access to medication. She shows the lead, police chief Jack Mannion, that AIDS in America is far from “under control”—in fact, it is so bad that her doctor is convicted of stealing HIV meds for patients like her who have fallen through the cracks. And The District boldly declares that the U.S. has zero interest in saving the lives of HIVers outside its own borders. Jenny dies—and it’s Mannion who pulls off the rally she had planned to protest AIDSbudget cuts.

Not a happy ending, but tough and true to life—and the kind of “message TV” that makes me feel like a kid again.

[Go to top]

Facebook Twitter Google+ MySpace YouTube Tumblr Flickr Instagram
Quick Links
Current Issue

HIV Testing
Safer Sex
Find a Date
Newly Diagnosed
HIV 101
Disclosing Your Status
Starting Treatment
Help Paying for Meds
Search for the Cure
POZ Stories
POZ Opinion
POZ Exclusives
Read the Blogs
Visit the Forums
Job Listings
Events Calendar
POZ on Twitter

Ask POZ Pharmacist

Talk to Us
Has a pet helped you deal with your HIV?


more surveys
Contact Us
We welcome your comments!
[ about Smart + Strong | about POZ | POZ advisory board | partner links | advertising policy | advertise/contact us | site map]
© 2016 Smart + Strong. All Rights Reserved. Terms of use and Your privacy.
Smart + Strong® is a registered trademark of CDM Publishing, LLC.