Will the controversial ‘AIDS is a mass murderer’ advertisement campaign be effective in creating HIV/AIDS awareness?

The advertisement campaign for creating AIDS awareness featuring Adolf Hitler has drawn much controversy upon its release. The ad shows a couple having steaming sex in a dimly lit room with music playing in the background. Towards the end of the ad, the face of the man is revealed to be Adolf Hitler, with the tag line ‘AIDS is a mass murderer’. The Rainbow group, which in association with Hamburg-based ad agency Das Comitee has conceived and promoted this awareness campaign, has defended the shock, disgust and provocation invoked by the ad. It’s spokesperson says that the ad is intended to wake up young Germans to the reality of AIDS prevalence in the country – a subject that has faded of late in public discourse. The discouraging statistics pertaining to the spread o AIDS in Germany, is warrant enough for this bold provocation, the charitable group justifies. And there is some merit in their point of view. For example, “Germans need the encouragement – the facts about HIV rates in the country are alarming. Eight people become infected with HIV in Germany every day. Across the country, 60,000 people are living with HIV.” (Moore, www.time.com, 2009) This essay will assess if the campaign would be effective if it were to be run in the United Kingdom.

While the image of Adolf Hitler generates lots of unpleasant feelings in Germans, it is more so in the United Kingdom. As part of the Allied forces, the UK bore the brunt of German aggression during the Second World War. Hence, the ad is bound to do better in the UK that what it did in Germany. Similarly, the image of Joseph Stalin and Saddam Hussein too does not sit well in the British audience’ mind, for the two were enemy personalities during the Cold War and the Iraq War respectively. Moreover, young people of UK are not immune to the threat of HIV infection. In the last few decades when over 28 million people have already succumbed to the disease – this includes a percentage of the British. Each passing day, 5,000 people succumb to the condition worldwide. In this respect it is not inappropriate to call AIDS a mass murderer of our times. (Moore, www.time.com, 2009)

The campaign finds relevance in the British context for other reasons too. For example, awareness about the nature and modes of transmission of the disease is not properly understood by most young people. This is despite the fact that relevant information is made available in the Internet and other media. The fact that many youth in the country do not understand how exactly HIV is transmitted is a cause of concern. They need to be educated about the many ways through which HIV could be transmitted from one human to another. Contact of mucous membrane during sexual intercourse is one of the common modes of transmission. Other modes include bloodstream contamination of HIV infected body fluids such as blood, vaginal fluid, semen, pre-seminal fluid, and breast milk. The infection can occur through conventional vaginal sexual intercourse or through anal, oral sexual acts. There are recorded cases of HIV infection being perpetrated through blood transfusion, transfer from mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding, contaminated hypodermic needles, etc. It is only through thought provoking awareness campaigns such as the one conceived by the Rainbow group that young people (including those in Britain) will get to understand the nature of the AIDS threat fully.

The spread of AIDS has now assumed pandemic proportions across the world. When statistics were compiled last year, as many as thirty three million people worldwide were afflicted with this condition, of which close to ten percent eventually died. The more worrying aspect is the fact that a significant portion of AIDS patients are children. The region worst hit by the AIDS pandemic is sub-Saharan Africa, where economic and cultural progress is curtailed by this perpetual emergency situation. Hence, given that sexual activity is an integral part of young people’s lives, cultivating the prudence to have safe sex is necessary. In this context, despite the sourness and shame the images of Hitler, Stalin and Hussein invoke, the ad campaign by Rainbow group is quite legitimate.

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