Cancer And Dementia

Above is the latest anti-HIV scare tactic from New York's Department of Health. Sean Strub's comments here. His factual points matter:

The horrible conditions noted are typically found only in some older people with HIV, or those who are not diagnosed until later stages of the disease; anal cancer is caused by an entirely different virus, osteoporosis is likely as much a function of anti-retroviral treatment as it is HIV itself, etc.

The ad reads like emails I get - and constant streams of comments on conservative blogs - regularly accusing me of dementia and other strange alleged side-effects of long-term HIV. You'd think that safer sex ads would have found a way by 2011 to promote condom use without ratcheting up fear to even more implausible levels, and without reinforcing the bleakest messages about young gay male life:

The message it gives--not factually, but with all the visceral power of that 5-frame shot of a ruined ass--is that if you're out on the scene, death and decay are stalking you and serves you right if they get you."

There's a better way, as Sean notes:

We can and should tell young people that HIV is very bad and they don't want to get it, but we can do that without condemning or stigmatizing people who already have HIV.  And we can and should tell people with HIV that a diagnosis is not the end of their lives, that they still pursue their dreams and seek everything anyone else can extract from life without sending a message to young people that HIV is no big deal.

We need to convey both of these messages, at the same time, and not let one negate or diminish the other.