Detroit HIV prevention signs stir debate
March 18, 1997
DETROIT (CNN) -- The billboard features a shirtless gay couple in an affectionate embrace. To the right of the photo of the two men is this blunt message: "We're hoping for some negative responses. Use condoms. Stay HIV-negative."
This roadside image, which is turning heads in the Detroit area, is part of an HIV prevention campaign put together by AIDS Partnership Michigan. And there have been negative responses -- from passing citizens.
One gay rights group is also up in arms over the campaign, saying the call for "negative responses" next to the image of a gay couple could be interpreted as calling for anti-gay violence.
"If somebody is driving down a road or highway, they're not going to stop and say ...'Oh, that's a double entendre,'" says Jeff Montgomery, president of the Triangle Foundation. "People aren't going to be able to do that."
But Barbara Murray, executive director of AIDS Partnership Michigan, defends the imagery and language used on the billboard.
"First and foremost, this is a prevention campaign," she says. "And it is exactly focused at the market that we seek to reach."
Other billboards target black heterosexuals
A local sign company donated space on about 20 billboards for the partnership's advertising campaign. In addition to the billboards targeting the gay community, there are also equally-blunt roadside messages targeting heterosexual African Americans,
In one, a young, middle-class black couple embraces, next to a message that reads, "AIDS. It's not just a gay thing." In another, located just a block from a local high school, a partially-undressed couple is featured along with explicit descriptions of high-risk activities for transmission of HIV.
While some passers-by have objected to the ads, others say the explicit language and imagery does seem to be an effective way to get across the prevention message.Detroit bureau chief Ed Garsten contributed to this report.
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