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BCPWA launches anti-stigma advertising campaign

The BC Persons With AIDS Society (BCPWA) unveiled an edgy public service advertising campaign, Jun 29, in an effort to help combat HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

The BC Association of Broadcasters (BCAB) selected BCPWA as one recipient of their prestigious Humanity Award. It gives BCPWA access to up to $3-million worth of donated advertising air time on 40 participating radio and television stations across BC. The 30-second spots will run in public service announcement slots throughout the year.

“This campaign highlights the impact of living in a culture that appears polite and accepting on the surface, but still harbours deep rooted prejudices that are expressed in subtler ways,” says BCPWA chair, Paul Lewand. Most people recognize and disapprove of discrimination in areas like employment, housing, and health care, Lewand explains. But stigmatization isn’t always so straightforward. “We want to spur discussion among families and communities to dispel myths and prejudices associated with HIV,” he says.
One television ad, which depicts two casual acquaintances in a chance meeting in a grocery store, has one man dodging a handshake saying, “Hey queer, better not. I don’t want you to kill me and I’ve got this cold.” The presumably HIV-positive man replies, “That’s too bad,” to which the other retorts, “Yeah, but at least I’m not going to die because I’m a careless fairy.”

After a few other tactless and pointed verbal jabs, the men part company with the first man saying, “You brought this on yourself.” The spot ends with the tagline superimposed on the screen: “Fortunately, we don’t always say what’s on our minds.”

Lewand says the ads have been approved by the Television Bureau of Canada.

The creative work behind the campaign is thanks to Canada’s largest advertising agency, Cossette Communication Group; and Vancouver production company, Steam Films. Both companies volunteered their time and donated their resources to develop the advertisements and a campaign website, www.endHIVstigma.ca.

“This was an important campaign for us” explains Richard Hadden, president and creative director of Cossette’s Vancouver operation. “Twenty-five years after the epidemic began, there has been tremendous progress in the areas of science and prevention, but the social stigma attached to the disease lives on. We felt it crucial for our campaign to take a very direct look at exposing and confronting some of the ill-informed prejudices that those living with HIV have to confront everyday.”