Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg has responded to criticism of a new government HIV awareness campaign that has been poorly received by several health organisations.
The “Let’s End HIV” advertisement will be shown across the state and features several scenarios and conversations faced by people affected by HIV today.
The appearance of the Grim Reaper from the notorious 1987 HIV/AIDS campaign during the ad has received particular criticism from the Queensland Association for Healthy Communties (QAHC).
QAHC’s acting executive director, Michael Scott, told the Star Observer last week that reintroducing the Grim Reaper showed “limited understanding of the psychological impacts of fear based imagery, and propaganda”.
“The Grim Reaper is by definition a personification of death, and the mere inclusion of the image… immediately evokes fear and links this fear and marginalisation with the affected communities,” Scott said.
“People living with HIV, and the gay community were ‘blamed’ for HIV [in 1987] and we will see it again in 2012.”
The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) also criticised the advert, echoing QAHC’s concern that the education message was neglected.
“What we actually need is a fully-fledged campaign that engages with communities, improves dialogue and deals with the current realities of HIV prevention and treatment,” AFAO executive director Rob Lake said in a statement.
A spokesman for Springborg told the Star Observer that the use of the Grim Reaper was purely to remind people that the issue is still prevalent 25 years after 1987.
“The intent is not to focus on death… it was also something that people linked with the issue of HIV,” the spokesman said.
“It’s about raising awareness of the issue, with further information available about how to prevent the spread of HIV by practicing safe sex on the campaign website.”
The spokesman said that the advert was only the first in a line of targeted adverts, some of which will focus on the gay community.
He also stated that a clear channel of communication existed between the health minister and QAHC, but Scott said otherwise.
“[Springborg] has not been willing to meet with us. Not only is there not an open channel of information, there is no communication.”