Advocacy groups reject Chile's latest AIDS prevention campaign

Published: November 15, 2011

Campaign criticized for focusing on testing and ignoring prevention and sexuality issues.

Activist groups this week strongly criticized the Chilean health ministry’s newest HIV/AIDS prevention campaign, condemning it as yet another off-target attempt to take on HIV/AIDS without addressing real prevention techniques or the key audience — gay and bisexual men.sidaThe campaign features six public figures in Chile.

The campaign will cost US$826,000 for four months of TV, radio and print ads, all aimed at preventing the disease’s spread among Chileans.

Local organizations battling HIV/AIDS protested the campaign’s nearly-exclusive “get tested” focus during a national campaign launch led Monday by Health Minister Jaime Mañalich and National Youth Institute Director Luis Felipe San Martín.

Throwing condoms into the air, the groups expressed their anger that the campaign fails to focus on condoms as a key tool to prevent the spread of the disease. Testing, they said, will not prevent the AIDS virus from spreading.

Fernando Muñoz, political coordinator for the Chilean movement for sexual diversity (MUMS), said the campaign “does not teach or promote self-care techniques” related to condum use and fails to promote “a change in attitude to avoid the risk of acquiring of the illness.”

Marcos Becerra, the director of the Chilean Corporation for AIDS Prevention, also lamented that condoms are not a part of the Chilean public health system, El Mercurio reported.

The critics also insist the campaign does not focus on the group of people most affected by HIV/AIDS:  gay or bisexual men. Health ministry data show that 70 percent of all Chileans affected by the illness are gay or bisexual men.

“Homophobia is behind all this,” Muñoz said. “The  campaign avoids talking about sexual orientation,” “negating the clear presence of sexual diversity in this process.”

Another controversial part of the campaign is the introduction of a compulsory HIV test for all pregnant women.

Mañalich said the government aims to assure that  “every child born in Chile from 2013 is free of AIDS” and called for the turnaround for HIV test results to be reduced from 45 days to 15 days.

But Muñoz insisted that the new measure “denies (women) the right of autonomy and to make decisions over their own bodies.” He also said the rate of HIV transmission through an HIV-positive mother is low — in Muñoz’s words, almost nonexistent — and the strong emphasis on pregnant women is illogical.

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