amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

STOP AIDS Launches Hard-Hitting Prevention Education Campaign

October 10, 2002—Living with HIV disease is no picnic. This is the message of a new social marketing campaign launched this week by San Francisco's STOP AIDS Project in an effort to counter the growing perception among HIV-negative men that HIV/AIDS can be easily managed and does not pose as much of a threat as it once did.

Stark black-and-white depictions of four HIV-positive men highlight some of the most common side effects of the disease and the anti-HIV drugs used to treat it, including facial wasting, night sweats, diarrhea, and the abnormally distended stomach commonly called "Crix belly" (after the protease inhibitor Crixivan). "Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to be alive," each ad says. "But HIV is no picnic." The ads will appear in the Bay Area Reporter and in area bus shelters.

Please click below to link to the four ads.

Stop AIDS Project Logo 


Like other major cities nationwide, San Francisco is experiencing a rise in the number of HIV and other sexually transmitted disease infections among gay and bisexual men. Cases of syphilis, a disease that significantly increases the risk of being infected with the AIDS virus, have quadrupled in the past three years. Cases of HIV infection, which causes AIDS, have doubled in the past five years.

We know that some people will be shocked by the "in your face" nature of the ads [but] we consider this a truth in advertising campaign. —David Evans, STOP AIDS Project Program Director 

City health experts estimate that there will be 700 to 800 new HIV infections in San Francisco this year, numbers that rival the early years of the AIDS epidemic.

The increase in HIV infections is being driven in part by a relapse to unsafe sexual behaviors among men who have sex with men (MSM), particularly unprotected anal intercourse, or "barebacking." As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported earlier this year, research suggests that some MSM are now less concerned about becoming HIV-infected than in the past and may be inclined to take more risks.

Les Pappas, president of San Francisco-based Better World Advertising, which designed the campaign, explains its importance. "People need to know that despite the advances in treatments, gay men are still dying from this disease. And the guys who aren't dying are dealing with some pretty serious health problems. It's better than before, but having HIV can still be a living hell."

Founded in 1984, the STOP AIDS Project works to prevent HIV transmission among gay and bisexual men in San Francisco through multicultural, community-based organizing. The ads are the brainchild of the group's Positive Force program, which works primarily with HIV-positive men to help end the spread of HIV, and to foster a sense of community that encourages and promotes nurturing, supportive relationships among men who have sex with men.

As STOP AIDS Program Director David Evans explained, "The HIV-positive guys who make up our Positive Force program have been waiting for an opportunity to tell negative guys how tough it can be to live with HIV."