Fighting AIDS with gift cards

Posted on 12 Aug 2008 at 11:38am

I have always been rather aggravated by the stereotype of gay men being shallow and superficial. I am not a gay man myself, but I have spent a lot of years working with gay men and my best friend is a gay man. And if makes me mad to see the dedicated, wonderful people I know and love dismissed as insignificant because people think they only care the latest fashions, the latest trends and the latest gossip.

So I didn’t really know what to think when I saw a story today on the AP wire about how the Centers for Disease Control have decided to try and combat the spread of HIV by basically bribing “influential” gay men to talk about safe sex and so on, I was, quite honestly, stunned.

The CDC, basing the idea on an apparently somewhat successful program used in North Carolina, will “give gift coupons to popular, influential men in the gay community and encourage them to talk up condom use, regular HIV testing and other responsible actions,” according to the AP report.

AP says the CDC is rolling the project out in 200 communities, with a $1.5 million budget over two years. They also have a five-year, $5 million “social marketing campaign to promote HIV testing to young black gay and bisexual men, who have been diagnosed with HIV at especially high rates,” AP reported.

The story comes in the wake of a CDC report released last week showing that HIV and AIDS continue to affect men who have sex with men, African-Americans and Hispanics at a disproportionate rate, while the infection rate among heterosexuals and IV drug users is declining.

The program “may sound frivolous, but little else has proven effective for the men most affected by the epidemic,” the AP report said.

It also quoted AIDS advocates who said the efforts were just “a drop in the bucket” of what is needed to stop the spread of HIV.

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