The Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC), an organisation that has had a significant amount of funding cut under the new Liberal Government, has been critical of the advertisements.
Paul Martin, QAHC Executive Director highlighted that that they do not highlight any strategies for educating the population about testing or treatment.
‘While we welcome increased public attention to HIV, this is a missed opportunity the update people on the reality of living with HIV today,
‘It is also a missed opportunity to encourage people who may be at risk to come forward for testing and treatment and to inform and remind people how to prevent transmission of HIV.’
The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations has also raised concern about the simplicity of the campaign, noting that the campaign appears to be a single television commercial rather than a fully fledged campaign about HIV awareness and prevention.
Rob Lake, AFAO Executive Director released a statement saying,
‘While we note that a television commercial will run, it is disconnected from a broad, sophisticated strategy necessary to promote safe sex and HIV prevention in the 21st century. Simply having the words “safe sex” shown for 2 seconds at the end of the commercial adds nothing to anyone’s understanding of the issues.
‘What we actually need is a fully-fledged campaign that engages with communities, improves dialogue and deals with the current realities of HIV prevention and treatment.’
Lake argues that the defunding of the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities deprives gay men and others at risk of contracting HIV of a relevant organisation to talk to for advice and called on the Queensland government to reinstate the organisation’s funding.
The original advertisement that first aired in 1987 was recognised internationally for its success in bringing HIV/AIDS to the attention of a mainstream heterosexual audience. The advertisements were criticised though for their use of the Grim Reaper character, which some people misinterpreted as a representation of gay men with HIV.
In 2002, HIV/AIDS prevention pioneer Dr Ron Penny, who diagnosed Australia’s first case of HIV and who was a member of the government body that commissioned the original advertisement said the side effects of the advertisement were regrettable.
Siimon Reynolds was the creative advertising executive behind the campaign. Following his success with the Grim Reaper campaign Reynolds went on to have an award winning career in the advertising industry and business. Today he is a corporate coach for some of the world’s biggest business leaders.
Speaking to OUTinPerth Reynolds noted the potential for harm if the new round of commercials being made focus on the Grim Reaper character,
‘It could work, but it all depends on how well it’s done. These kinds of ads are difficult to produce, demanding a high level of artistry. If they are beautifully made, they could work. If they are clumsy and cheap it will do more harm than good.’
Launching the new campaign earlier this week Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said,
‘No Australian government has made a television-specific advertisement targeting HIV for a decade,’
Mr. Springborg described the appearance of the Grim Reaper in the advertisements as ‘fleeting’ and said the government was committed to making a significant reduction in the level of new transmissions of the virus.
‘These advertisements show that lives are affected and they highlight, through a fleeting appearance of the iconic Grim Reaper, that the threat of HIV/AIDS did not go away after the last campaign ended.’ said Mr. Springborg.
It is not known at this time if the Grim Reaper will be featured in a print campaign the government will launch to accompany the television advertisement.
Read our previous story ‘Grim Reaper Returns‘
UPDATE: August 29 6:32pm An earlier version of this article included a statement that the campaign was created under the direction of the Queensland governments new HIV AIDS Minesterial Advisory Committee. This was incorrect. The committe was not involved in the advertisement.