Like most scientific conferences, the 17th International AIDS Conference, which ended here Friday, had its share of researchers presenting and discussing the findings of multiyear investigations in clinical terms.
Mixed among the strait-laced scientists, though, were activists wearing condom costumes and T-shirts that asked, “Got AIDS?”
More than a quarter of a century since the AIDS epidemic was recognized, the advocates say, they must be increasingly imaginative in their efforts to educate the public. Posters showed condom-shaped superheroes sailing through the air and oversize insects, representing the virus, having sex with unsuspecting victims. The worst thing, those involved say, is to be so dull that people's eyes glaze over.
One attention-getting ad campaign on display – called “If I were H.I.V. positive …” – was created by a French group called AIDES. For two years, AIDES has printed posters and postcards and created advertisements using photos of prominent people above questions meant to challenge stereotypes about infected people.
After former President Bill Clinton gave the keynote address Monday, Floriane Cutler, an AIDES staff member, ducked under a rope and handed him a poster the group had prepared of him in the hope that he would approve its distribution.
“Would I ever have been president of the United States, if I were H.I.V. positive?” it read. The group used a photo of Clinton that it had downloaded from the Internet.
Cutler said Clinton listened to her quick spiel about the idea behind the anti-stigma campaign, smiled at her and then moved along with a copy of the poster in his hand.