SAN FRANCISCO -- On the eve of World AIDS Day (Dec. 1), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a new series of broadcast public service announcements, one of which is specifically directed at young gay men. This the first gay TV spot ever produced by the CDC, and the campaign is expected to rankle homophobes across the nation, including the conservative forces now controlling Congress.
"This new campaign is welcome and long-overdue," said Al Kielwasser, spokesperson for the San Francisco chapter of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). "For too long, government and health establishments have refused to use television to speak directly and affirmatively to gays, even while HIV has ravaged gay teenagers."
"To successfully combat AIDS, we must also combat homophobia," Kielwasser said.
The new CDC television spot was adapted from a prime-time television special, "Smart Sex," which aired nationally last year. In addition to the gay spot, the CDC has created 13 other PSAs also adapted from the "Smart Sex" program.
To date, both the Fox and ABC television networks have agreed to run PSAs from the new CDC campaign, though neither network has yet committed to running the gay spot. Reportedly, CBS is reluctant to broadcast the gay men's PSA.
"It's vital that the gay-specific message is broadcast by every major network," said Kielwasser, "and GLAAD is committed to ensuring that America's broadcasters do the right thing. It is inexcusable and inhumane for any broadcaster to sacrifice the lives of our youth simply to appease public bigotry."
A special report recently released by the Public Media Center ("The Impact of Homophobia and Other Social Biases on AIDS") documents the mass media's failed response to the AIDS epidemic, particularly where gays are concerned. The new report concludes that "until the issue of homophobia is properly and adequately addressed in America, our nation is unlikely to generate an objective, focused response to the epidemic of HIV/AIDS."
Estimates suggest that more than one million Americans -- one out of every 250 -- may be diagnosed with AIDS by the year 2000. Currently, one out of every 93 American men, aged 27-39, is living with HIV. Many of these men became infected as teenagers.
GLAAD/San Francisco has joined with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in urging the public to call the CDC (1-800-447-4784) and voice support for the new gay spot, and to encourage television networks and local broadcasters to air the message prominently and regularly.
Founded in 1988, the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of GLAAD is dedicated to media activism and cultural advocacy. GLAAD promotes fair, accurate and diverse media treatment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. GLAAD/San Francisco is the largest lesbian and gay membership organization in California, and the oldest and largest GLAAD chapter in the nation.