New campaign for HIV testing targets African American men

“Status is Everything”: These are the words repeated in the new HIV testing campaign to be launched by the Newark, NJ African American Office of Gay Concerns (AAOGC).
The website is not functional yet, as the campaign will be revealed on December 1, 2009, and officially launched in January 2010, but their preview photo shoot for the advertising campaign was released on flickr this week.
Photos feature young gay African American men with the caption “Status is Everything,” and the ad campaign will refer viewers to a hotline and website where they can schedule free HIV testing at local clinics.
Not found in this campaign, however, is the need for a cogent campaign that’s inclusive of young women of color. In 2007, blacks accounted for 44% of the 455,636 people living with AIDS in the 50 states and District of Columbia. And as Advocates for Youth reports,

Black women and Latinas account for 79 percent of all reported HIV infections among 13- to 19-year-old women and 75 percent of HIV infections among 20- to 24-year-old women in the United States although, together, they represent only about 26 percent of U.S. women these ages.

One idea that has circulated this year accuses black men on the “down low,” that is, closeted black men who have sexual exposure to other men while dating women, of contributing to the HIV epidemic and women’s infection rates in the US. Yet, the director of the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, Kevin Fenton, concluded that the cause of increased infection rates among black women was instead the incidence of black men with multiple heterosexual partners. He cites data that shows a lack of bisexual self-identification among the community of HIV-positive black men. (Is it possible that the accusation that “down low” men spread HIV is an extension of the race-fueled trend of the feminization of black men?)
This advertising campaign, while potentially powerful in the gay male community, won’t help the black women who comprise 61 percent of all new HIV cases among women.
One thing is certain: Newark’s new campaign, while not targeted toward the women affected most by HIV, is a nice change from other disturbing HIV advertising we’ve seen.

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