Instagram is banning advertisements targeting gay and bi men for the HIV preventative medication pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) on account of being ‘too political.’

The popular photo-sharing app is a subsidiary of Facebook and owned by its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, who recently appeared before the US Congress’s House Financial Services Committee to defend his site’s acceptance of political advertisements, even if they’re untrue. 

A New York City-based health care provider that focuses on serving people of colour, Apicha Community Health Centre (Apica Community CHC) tried to run an online campaign through Instagram to raise awareness about PrEP.

The medication regimen, which involves taking a daily dose of PrEP or Truvada, has been shown to be 99 per cent effective in preventing the transmission of HIV in HIV-negative individuals.

However, when Apicha attempted to launch the campaign, they were told that they couldn’t place ads “about social issues, elections, or politics”.

“They said the copy was the problem but were unable to tell us what part of the copy was too political,” the Director of Grants and Communications at Apicha, Phillip Miner told Vice. 

“It’s incredibly frustrating to encounter these sort of roadblocks.”

While the ads can be viewed on Apicha’s own Instagram feed, the ‘political’ element of the planned advertising campaign remains unclear.

Miner added that other social media platforms have previously rejected their ads, usually citing policies on adult content. Twitter initially rejected the PrEP campaign for this reason, but Apicha was able to appeal and reverse the decision.

The campaign aims to target queer men of colour, as many men—especially Black and Latino men who have sex with men—are less likely to be able to access PrEP than their white peers.

Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that Black and Latino men who have sex with men are significantly less likely to be aware of PrEP’s existence, to have discussed PrEP with their general practitioner, or to have taken PrEP in the last year when compared to their white counterparts.

This ‘political’ development comes after Zuckerberg was grilled by the US Congress House Financial Services Committee about false statements in the political advertisements run by Facebook.

“You announced recently that the official policy of Facebook now allows politicians to pay to spread disinformation in 2020 elections and in the future. So I just want to know how far I can push this in the next year?” US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked, addressing Zuckerberg. 

Ocasio-Cortez continued to press Zuckerberg to say whether Facebook would take down political ads containing ‘fake news’ and direct lies.

“In most cases, in a democracy, I believe that people should be able to see for themselves what politicians that they may or may not vote for are saying and judge their character for themselves,” Zuckerberg said.

“People should make up their own minds about which candidates are credible and which candidates have the kind of character that they want to see in their elected officials.”

Yet, Zuckerberg seems to have ‘made up his own mind’ for people from the LGBTQI+ community about their access to HIV prevention and treatment.

 

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