You’d think with a subject as serious as the rise of the HIV infection rate, even the Herald could manage a slightly respectful and serious tone. And you’d be wrong.

Ruth Pollard’s article Surge in HIV figures a grim reality starts out gloomy and serious enough, but this only lasts until around the point where she tells us:

Australia has an internationally respected record in HIV, containing the epidemic mostly amongst gay men and limiting its spread in the broader community.

So it’s only gay people dying. That makes it OK. Respected, even.

Thus the feds are said to be putting $10 mil towards an ad campaign targeted at gay people. But how do we reach this audience? Don Baxter, the executive director of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, tells us:

Market research commissioned by NSW Health indicates there are a number of shows that have a high number of gay viewers – including Desperate Housewives, Queer as Folk, Will and Grace, The L Word and, of course, any Kylie special.

So in order to get the message across to gay people that they should take precautions or they might die a lingering, horrible death, let’s do market research into gay stereotypes and only show the ads during shows that are FABULOUS!

With each new HIV infection costing upwards of $450,000 in future treatment expenses, the $10 million advertising campaign, if targeted correctly, would very quickly become cost effective, Mr Baxter said.

Yes. If only 22.22 people change their behaviour as a result of seeing the ad, that’s a 100% return on investment for the government. But it can’t be a scare campaign, Mr Baxter tells us:

Gay men need to be treated respectfully, the ads should be carefully designed to ensure that fear is not used as a motivation.

Sound advice, Mr Baxter, gay men need to be treated respectfully. Why not start by addressing the rise of AIDS infections without a flippant discussion about marketing, condescending stereotypes and ROI figures?

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