The WeTheBrave campaign targeting gay men and other men who have sex with men is facing stiff opposition to the airing and publishing of its risqué HIV awareness ads.
The sometimes racy video and print ads were designed with the aim of “addressing HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in a way that is honest and direct, yet affirming, non-judgemental, sex positive and entertaining.”
One video shows a simple kiss between two men but a few take it a little further by showing naked buttocks, a leather-clad “sugar daddy”, and simulated sexual acts.
According to Nina Morris Lee, Head of Marketing at the Anova Health Institute, which is behind the campaign, “HIV is is still a huge problem and with the amount of stigmatisation MSM still face in South Africa, we do not have the luxury of tip-toeing around the issues.”
Examples of the wording on the print ads include, “We’re brave enough to fight stigma so we’re definitely brave enough to fight HIV” and “We’re brave enough to walk into a darkroom so we’re definitely brave enough to walk into a clinic”.
Anova said that while not banned per se, there has been opposition to the printing of the advertisements in some newspapers and magazines, their flighting on certain television and radio stations as well as the hosting of them on the web.
The organisation revealed that some advertising departments have outright refused to use the content due to concerns about alienating or offending their readers, whilst others requested that it be ‘toned down’.
One of the videos that did get the go ahead to air on television depicted a kiss between two men of different races. This was a first for an advertisement of this nature on South African television, as was the use of the actual image of a condom.
“We understand our market and in order to educate them on vital issues on sexual health, we have to do so in a way that resonates with them,” said Morris Lee.
“We are careful to always remain sex positive versus adding to discrimination by being fear-based. The aim of the content is not to shock, but to attract our market through creating scenarios to which they relate.”
Morris Lee explained that the campaign has received overwhelming and much-appreciated editorial support from the South African media, but “rejection and requests for censorship of content by advertising departments speaks of the ignorance and stigmatisation MSM still face.”
she added: “Clearly, our work in this country has only just begun.”
Below are some of the “controversial” video ads produced by WeTheBrave, which is funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation. For more information, visit www.wethebrave.co.za.