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(BROTHERS & SISTERS) GETTY IMAGES/ADAM TAYLOR; (2 MEN) GETTY IMAGES * MODELS USED FOR ILLUSTRATIVE PUPOSES ONLY
BROTHERS & SISTERS SPOTLIGHTS HIV AND AGING. Screeching tires, breaking glass and disclosure— that was the explosive season 4 finale of ABC’s drama Brothers & Sisters. In the hotly debated episode, Uncle Saul (played by Ron Rifkin), a senior citizen, revealed he was HIV positive. The episode has found criticism. It portrayed Saul secretly getting an HIV test, then waiting more than 24 hours to call for the results, when today’s rapid tests take 20 minutes. After receiving his HIV diagnosis, Saul denied to others he was positive, missing an opportunity to start a conversation about HIV and treatment options. Further, the show ended on a blood-phobic note with Saul pleading others not to touch him after the aforementioned car crash left him bloodied.
Despite these critiques, some advocates say the good outweighs the bad. Prime time TV is not only talking about the importance of HIV testing, but it’s also acknowledging the growing population of positive people ages 50 and over. As the show’s fifth and possibly final season approaches, more questions loom. Will producers depict Saul dealing with the stigma of HIV, the issue of disclosure and the side effects that can be associated with treatment? Producers are staying tight-lipped, but they’ve said that next season will jump ahead one year, showing all the characters, including Saul, in dramatically different—and, we hope, healthy—stages in their lives. —CRISTINA GONZALEZ
Gay men can age gracefully with HIV.
SEPTEMBER 18 NATIONAL HIV/ AIDS AND AGING AWARENESS DAY It’s estimated that by 2015, more than half of all people living with HIV in the U.S. will be older than 50.
Ron Rifkin (second from left) and the Brothers & Sisters cast
SEPTEMBER 27 NATIONAL GAY MEN’S HIV/AIDS AWARENESS DAY About 53 percent of all the new HIV cases in the U.S. in 2007 were in men who have sex with men.
Go to aids.gov/awareness-days for more information.
Fear & Loathing in Illinois DO SCARE TACTICS IN AD CAMPAIGNS PREVENT HIV? In April, a mysterious campaign appeared in Chicago’s gay scene. The bar ads, showing one of four sexy men, teased: “He’s the one.” Many Boystown residents figured a new dating site was launching. In May, they found out otherwise. “He’s the one…that could infect you,” revealed the full tag line, which also ran in print ads with a montage of four men’s faces spliced together comprising a head shot. Criticism came swiftly. “[The ad] absolutely demonizes and stigmatizes people living with HIV,” says Jim Pickett, the advocacy director of AIDS Foundation of Chicago. “It posits a gay man living with HIV as a monster who is out to infect you.” He adds, “I loathe fear-based advertising. It might’ve created a lot of discussion, but I don’t believe it works.”
Not everyone agrees—including gay and HIV-positive men in the campaign’s focus groups. Ad agency Hispanicity created the spots. Company president and CEO Evan Gordon tells POZ the men they interviewed didn’t find the spots stigmatizing. In fact, he says, “We heard that there has to be a fear factor because the younger people have no recollection of people dying every day [of AIDS].” After fielding complaints and praise for the ads, the Illinois Department of Public Health, which funded the statewide campaign, pulled the spots. Turns out he’s not the one after all. —TRENTON STRAUBE Search “He’s the One” at poz.com to read more on the campaign controversy and to share your comments on whether scare tactics prevent HIV.
SEPTEMBER 2010 POZ 19