Australian state revives controversial Grim Reaper AIDS commercial

The Australian state of Queensland will spend half a million dollars on an AIDS awareness campaign featuring the Grim Reaper - about a fifth of the money it stripped from the state's only LGBT health organization

Australian state revives controversial Grim Reaper AIDS commercial
26 August 2012

The Australian state of Queensland has produced a new advertising campaign reviving a controversial cultural icon from the 1980’s Australian fight against AIDS to raise awareness about HIV after stripping the state’s only LGBT community health organization of all funding.

The original 1987 Grim Reaper campaign was a horror movie inspired TV commercial in which the Grim Reaper played ten pin bowls, with ordinary Australians standing in as the pins, and was designed to send the message that homosexuals and drug users were not the only ones at risk of dying from AIDS.

Australian HIV experts remain divided over whether the campaign was useful or just spread further panic and stigma about LGBT people and people with HIV in Australia at the time.

The new ad campaign shows a makeup artist getting the Grim Reaper from the original commercial ready on a television set, with the message ‘We shouldn’t be making this advert [again]’

‘After 30 years, HIV continues to rise in Queensland, but that can end today,’ a voice over says.

HIV diagnoses have doubled in Queensland from 2.8 percent per 100,000 people in 2001 to 5.4 percent in 2010 and this was cited by the Queensland Health Minister, Lawrence Springborg, in stripping LGBT health group Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC).

However the bulk of new infections had been among heterosexuals – who QAHC were not funded to provide services for – with diagnoses among gay men staying stable.

The new advertising campaign will cost $500,000 – or around a fifth of the $2.5 million in government grants that were stripped from QAHC.

QAHC have had to lay off the bulk of their staff as a result of the cuts but are continuing to operate thanks to public donations.

Springborg told reporters that the HIV epidemic in Queensland should have ended three decades ago.

‘This should have ended 30 years go,’ Springborg claimed.

‘What’s happening is that we are actually coming into a brand new peak, where people have actually thought it has gone away but indeed hasn’t gone away, it is continuing to worsen,’

Past state Queensland Governments had spent less per person combating HIV than any other Australian state or territory.





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