A new series of public service announcements is aimed at getting effective HIV prevention into the hands of those who are most at-risk of contracting the virus: men who enjoy recreational sex and drug use, but may be ashamed to address those habits with a doctor.
The new spot, which was written and produced by Savas Abadsidis and Kenny Neal Shults for Public Health Solutions and Connected Health Solutions, is specifically directed at men who may be at high risk but feel shamed by the social baggage attached to taking Truvada, the only form of PrEP currently approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration.
As Shults explains:
"When we sat down to consider the best audiences for the campaigns we knew only one thing for certain: We wanted to address gay men who might fall under the puritanical 'Truvada Whore' classification. That is, we wanted to reach men whose sexual and recreational drug behaviors both put them at a greater risk for both contracting HIV and being stigmatized for even considering going on PrEP. It seemed obvious to us that judging the men who could benefit most from PrEP for the behaviors that we think they should abandon and replace with consistent, unfaltering condom use was not our job. Our goal as HIV prevention professionals is to reduce HIV infections, and to communicate to those at high risk that they don't deserve to be punished with HIV for "misbehaving." I mean, that's the tacit implication of these reactionary pulpit platforms isn't it; you either use a condom every time - behave - or you're shamed and set apart from the rest of the community.
"Enter J.D. Phoenix. J.D. is the embodiment of perceived young gay male sexual autonomy. He represents his generation's unexpected, and for some vexing, response to the epidemic. And whether we like it not, there are plenty of young gay men using drugs and having barrier free sex, not at all unlike their heterosexual counterparts. But debasing gays for being human while in a higher risk group seemed at best like a double standard and at worst a highly unethical and ineffective means for keeping them healthy. J.D., a man who has and seemingly enjoys having plenty of sex, is perfect person to deliver the first line of the campaign: When straight guys have a lot of sex, they're called studs; but when gay guys do, they're called sluts. That line is a setup for one of my stand-up bits that ends with a mediocre punchline, but hearing J.D. say it as he grabs a bag of pills and heads out to the Phoenix Bar gave me goosebumps. Without much effort at all, J.D. managed to subtly communicate the entire breadth of the contrasting principals and controversies surrounding PrEP and its detractors."
For more information, visit HIVBigDeal.org/