HIV is hottest at the start

In browsing the web, I cam across a new provocative and racy HIV testing campaign aimed toward MSM in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  The campaign, called “HIV: It’s Hottest at the start”  compares acute early HIV infection to hot early relationship (or hookup?) sex.  Much like sex with a new partner has an element of thrill and spontaneity, the campaign goes on to state that HIV is extremely infectious in the early phases infection, and if one doesn’t know their status in the early phase and has unprotected sex, they can very easily pass the virus to others.  The ads encourage individuals to take a new HIV test (which I must admit I didn’t know existed) designed to detect HIV infection within the last 10 days.  The new test detects the HIV virus, as opposed to the traditional tests which detect antibodies, which may take up to three months after infection to appear.  The ads inform individuals that if they are fucking without condoms during this early “hot” phase of HIV infection it is easy to spread the disease.

The campaign is designed and carried out by HIM, Health Initiative for Men, a community health organization strengthening the health of gay men in Vancouver.

I am not sure how I feel about these ads.   It appears that they are targeted at men who bareback as the ad states ” If you fuck without condoms and aren’t completely sure of your partner’s HIV status, get tested.”   Somewhere deep inside of me (no pun intended) I feel like anyone fucking someone with or without condoms who doesn’t know the other individuals status should get tested.  However, I suppose in order to maximize resources, HIM has chosen to focus on the more risky population: those who bareback in sero-unknown partnerships.  And, the ad does encourage condom use as a means of prevention if you go on to read. I guess part of the idea was to eroticize HIV associating it with carnal sex, rather than stigmatizing it.  “Hey if I have hot wild sex unprotected sex with the man I just met in the elevator or bath house then maybe I should get tested since I (or he) can have HIV and not know it and spread it to others easily in its early phases.  Why not? I’ll know within 10 days of my risky exposure and then can continue the hot affair.”   HIM seems to say that they are promoting sex-affirmative and sex-positive messaging, and that such explicit campaigns have higher message recall.

I’m not against the sexual messages – hell I love hot men engaging in sex acts.  However, I just can’t quite tell what their message is.  Any thoughts?

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