AIDS Partnership Michigan’s (APM) new prevention campaign is catching more flak than the group intended. One of the images, of two bar-chested hunks about to kiss, rubs Christian fundies the wrong way. But it also strikes backlash fear in the hearts of gay activists who complain that the jingle jangles: They worry “We’re hoping for some negative responses” will be read as a pitch not for negative HIV test results but for homophobia. “The wording could invite people to act out their bigotry,” said Jeff Montgomery, president of the Triangle Foundation, a gay-rights group. “If the ad was in gay bars or publications, it would be very effective. But on public streets the message is easy to misconstrue.” The campaign, the nonprofit’s first foray into prevention, went up on billboards around metro Detroit in March.
APM executive director Barbara Murray defended the ad as “a Generation X message” targeted to and focus-group-tested by young gay white men. She said the billboards are in areas where this group hangs out. But Montgomery said, “That presumes Detroit has a Greenwich Village or a Castro, and it doesn’t.”
Others were puzzled by the dead junkie/killer needle image in the ad for IV drug-users, since prevention experts warn that terror tactics don’t work. “It’s not antidrug—the figure’s eyes are open, and he’s clearly alive,” Murray said. “All the drug-users in the focus group said it made them stop and think.” And stop sharing needles? Let’s hope so.