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MN AIDS Walk and Sexing It Up

12 Nov

Christian-Philippe Quilici of posts what amounts to an op-ed calling on to question the sexy new ad campaign for MN AIDS Walk. The new AIDS Walk promotional materials feature glossy videos of buffed men talking in stilted terms about the importance of safe sex practices. Here is Alex’s behind-the-scenes video:

The problem, as Quilici sees it, is that such glossy tactics amount to a “whitewashing” of the continuing epidemic of HIV/AIDS in the United States, not to mention the explosive scourge of the disease overseas. The problems of hyper-sexualization are not unique to the LGBT community, it is one of the continuing conditions of late-epoch America that we walk around lambasted by sex and violence, but the unique correlation between sexuality and HIV/AIDS makes “sexed up” ad campaigns problematic at best. Quilici writes;

“Does advertising like this recent campaign from MN AIDS Project tell you anything about the 54,000 NEW infections of HIV in North America? Does this campaign (and others like it) constitute a whitewashing of what continues to be a GLOBAL EPIDEMIC? Does this, effectively, contribute to the ballooning ignorance among young gay men as to the real dangers of this disease? What part does this play vis-a-vis the rampant rise in bareback sex? Pre-1999 AIDS awareness campaigns were raw, in-your-face and downright activist. The past 10 years have shown that message evolve into the sex-positive sloganeering and unnecessarily provocative/suggestive media we are surrounded with today. How many leukemia campaigns have you seen recently that feature hot shirtless guys? Muscular dystrophy? Jerry’s kids have NOTHING on these studs.”

AIDS awareness in the 1980s was fueled by radical arts and political movements, the Silence=Death campaign of ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power, the organized mass die-ins, the arresting visual work of David Wojnarowicz, all in response to the mass complacency, homophobia and ignorance of the Reagan Administration. Impassioned response like that is difficult to sustain and arguably the rise of available treatment and education have lessened the need for such immediately visceral response, but it is still troubling that the glossy blase of Hanes ads has taken over. It’s still true, AIDS kills, and that’s not a comfortable thing to know, but it remains.

***Update 11/19/2009***
Kristin Tillotson of the Star Tribune did a wrap-up of some of the fallout and chatter around the ad series, including a quote from yours truly. Check it out here.

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