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HIV/AIDS Chat: Keeping gay men healthy

Tue 16 Mar 2004 In: HIV

For more than two years the NZ AIDS Foundation has known that there was likely to be a resurgence of HIV in New Zealand about now... it's happened in similar communities overseas and throughout the HIV epidemic New Zealand has (luckily) lagged behind by two years. So, with warnings aplenty, with one of the most historically successful HIV education and prevention programmes in the world, with a literate and HIV-aware gay community, how did this happen? What do we do now that more men that ever have HIV and more and more men are contracting HIV anew? invited Rachael LeMesurier, the newly-appointed Executive Director of the NZ AIDS Foundation, to field questions and comments in an open live chat room session. In the room with LeMesurier were Jay Bennie of, Moose, Ian and Jim. JAY B: Ok, let's kick it off and hope more folks join in... you had a starter Moose? MOOSE: Yeah... I think my concern about the NZAF and prevention is really about value for money. RACHAEL, NZAF: Fair enough - anything money-wise in particular? MOOSE: How much government funding a year does the NZAF get for prevention HIV amongst gay men? RACHAEL, NZAF: Approx $2.5 million is the Govt contract, but that is for more than prevention work. MOOSE: So wot would the prevention component be? RACHAEL, NZAF: Good question - I didn't bring the breakdown with me but it is on the website - can supply detail later? JAY B: A rough estimate? RACHAEL, NZAF: Too new [to the job] to risk that, so am on the NZAF website to check. MOOSE: shall we use a ballpark figure like $600k? TIREDNESS AT THE NZAF? IAN: Ok, my problem with NZAF is the fact that it is tired. Staff have sinecures. The same old strategies are being retried with more cash thrown at them... BUT it doesn't seem to be working. How are we going to revitalise it? I think it is a big problem. MOOSE: I tend to agree ut how many people work in HIV prevention? IAN: Its not just morale... it is “will to action.” It is ideas. RACHAEL, NZAF: This is going very fast for me! JAY B: It is always unfair to look back thru rose-tinted glasses, but I have to admit some of the vitality of early years has gone. IAN: The campaigns run over the last few years are just tired. They are just rehashes of ever narrowing target groups. RACHAEL, NZAF: Which is a comment in itself really. JAY B: But that is sometimes part of the lifecycle of an organisation RACHAEL, NZAF: Interesting - would that apply to the Roger The Ranger campaign and the better to test posters? OK, who has some ideas about why the latest figures are so high? IAN: The ever narrowing target groups. Disinterest from the target group... No sense of fear or regard for the virus... Your target groups are BORED with HIV/AIDS. RACHAEL, NZAF: Yes - no sense of fear is a good point - ideas as to how to bring the fear back or whether that is the way to bring about change? JAY B: I know there is a great reluctance to use fear too much, but occasionally do you have to give someone a case of the frights to wake them up, make them listen and think? IAN: It practically has got down to "lets do a campaign for young gay men from Hamilton who might be thinking of going to a sex-on-site." CAMPAIGN IMAGERY RACHAEL, NZAF: The latest posters had men in their 40s, young, Asian, Maori, European - who is outside the target group? IAN: Pretty pictures, Rachael. PC NZ... we are diverse. RACHAEL, NZAF: Has anyone seen the campaigns of the last 8 mths? IAN: Yup... seen them all... checked them out. MOOSE: Yep... I think I have. IAN: Didn't work for me. RACHAEL, NZAF: So help me here - the pictures should be of... ? IAN: People are not interested in seeing themselves. RACHAEL, NZAF: What would they would like to see? IAN: They are interested in something that works for them. IAN: Someone they want to be. RACHAEL, NZAF: Which would be... ?! IAN: Someone they want. JAY B: sexually desirable? RACHAEL, NZAF: Oh, OK - how do we weave fear into someone they'd like to be? IAN: In Australia the most souvenired HIV posters they had were of a glam junky couple hitting up, [photographed by] a fab photographer. RACHAEL, NZAF: Did it mean guys wanted to wear condoms again? IAN: NZAF is too PC. IAN: [That Australian campaign] got some basic message across... people wanted the poster RACHAEL, NZAF: Umm, possibly. IAN: I haven't seen an NZAF poster I've wanted. RACHAEL, NZAF: If it were fear-driven would you want it or would you choose to use a condom? IAN: you're too bound up in the PC scenarios... there is none of the invention of the early days, no excitement in communication. IAN: I saw a 'Kissing Doesn't Kill' poster from the early days. It was potent. RACHAEL, NZAF: OK, but if we go back to the first comment regarding money - it's not ours to use without evidence of making a difference. This could be the PC bit? JAY B: What did the kissing poster look like, what was the message? IAN: Couples kissing. Gritty ACT UP poster. RACHAEL, NZAF: Hey I liked that one too - gay + lesbian + straight? RACHAEL, NZAF: Shall we use it again - it was very classy FEAR-BASED CAMPAIGNS MOOSE: I'm not sure fear is a good driver for gay men. RACHAEL, NZAF: Thanks Moose - except other gay men want us to use the fear message IAN: NZAF is just remix and rehash. To summarise for Rachael: NZAF= tired campaigns. That revolving Risk-o-meter? plu-ease! Better to put ads in TV week. Reaches more people. MOOSE: If you want fear then surely you would depict all the pills someone with aids has to take to survive? RACHAEL, NZAF: Yes, we could do the pills thing and the sexy images, but it may be hard juggling the two messages at the same time. JAY B: Very conflicting, pills is scary, sexy is cool+. RACHAEL, NZAF: Actually, a lot of guys have liked the revolvo meter - maybe we aren't pleasing everyone all the time? JAY B: So how so we make messages that are relevant and how do we deliver them to the right people? RACHAEL, NZAF: Nicely put Jay. MOOSE: I tend to agree with Ian, though the NZAF has singularly failed to make safe sex hip or cool. IAN: Ad campaigns are by clever people with motivation... that is where you get that spark of genius. RACHAEL, NZAF: OK, I can take that comment on, but know that there is pressure from other gay guys to give the very unsexy message of fear. IAN: It seems to me that NZAF is tired, with people who have been there too long rehashing one thing. MOOSE: That's very Catholic: fear=guilt IAN: Fear does not have to be unsexy IAN: Mmm, nice fear... exciting fear... gritty fear JAY B: lol! RACHAEL, NZAF: Interestingly our advertising campaigns are getting rave reviews internationally - so how could we please everyone in this room tonight?! JAY B: Rave reviews from overseas are ok but [the campaigns] haven't stopped the rate of new HIV infections from doubling. IAN: Rave reviews from an AIDS conference doesn't mean they work. RACHAEL, NZAF: So... sexy fear, in a poster Ian would want to take home. But would it make anyone choose to use a condom who currently hasn't? MOOSE: Returning to your earlier comment Rachael, I believe the NZAF has spent a lot of money pleasing the funder with safe inoffensive images. IAN: Me too. Agreed. Jim: There were two TV commercials in Oz (I think) that stick in my mind. The sexy guy and girl about to lie down on a bed of needles (that was sexy and gritty fear... or anticipation). The other was the grim reaper in the bowling alley... that was fear-focused I guess. Whatever... those images still stick in my mind today. IAN: Collecting a poster, stopping to think about it, means that there is a subliminal message going through. BAREBACKING RACHAEL, NZAF: The campaigns, etc. were working up until 2000, then more guys began to be infected - any thoughts as to why? Was it treatments? MOOSE: Barebacking. RACHAEL, NZAF: Barebacking wasn't happening before? IAN: Barebacking is more exciting than not barebacking. Barebacking is sexy. Prevention hasn't made prevention sexy. JAY B: [The sensation of] skin on skin, or risk-taking? IAN: Both MOOSE: Barebacking is perceived as cool. JAY B: It seems to me that there might be two barebacking "cultures"... the ones that do it because it's cool, and the ones that just dislike/cant be bothered with condoms. RACHAEL, NZAF: TV commercials, good ones, can cost over $50K before we [even] buy airtime and may last a few weeks - is that how you'd like the money used? IAN: If it is good commercial, yeah. Jim: They could be transported to posters perhaps. And what about "Public Service" stuff on TVNZ? RACHAEL, NZAF: So its posters   


First published: Tuesday, 16th March 2004 - 12:00pm

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