Hitler’s unmistakable moustache leers up to camera as he gyrates away at a beautiful woman at the climax of a new Aids awareness advert in Germany. The payoff is: “Aids is a mass murderer”. There’s 44 seconds of face-obscured graphic nudity before you get to see she’s brought Adolf home at 2.33am, a man who will shag her to death.
Here we’re basically saying sex with an HIV-positive man is like having sex with Hitler. If you’ve got an HIV-positive son it’s like having Hitler for a son. It’s not saying use a condom it’s saying don’t have sex with someone who’s infected at all costs. You’ll be sleeping with a Nazi and not in a kinky F1 Max Mosley sort of way.
It’s throwing out any consideration for your HIV-positive population in order to frighten people and deter infection. It’s disturbingly retro: groping back to an eighties tenet which has faded, namely that HIV-positive people are evil. As global figures of HIV have increased we’ve gone an encouraging, community-based, tolerance route with campaigns. The focus has been for people to live healthily with HIV.
There is a fair argument to lean back a little heavier on the fact that this person can kill you, but what’s illogical about using Hitler is it puts a malicious twist in the person you’re sleeping with. This turns against decades of tedious education trying to stop people from judging HIV status by appearance. Whoopi Goldberg has painstakingly tried to stop intelligent adults from sitting at a bar and trying to guess if the person they’ve just met is nice enough, amusing enough, to be HIV negative. Hitler is a pop-cultural icon recognisable for mass murder, but your average HIV-positive man or woman might not know themselves. It alludes to a world where everyone with Aids wears little Hitler moustaches — then we would know for sure.
The campaign will be on television till Aids Day in December. They are not going to release an Aids ribbon fashioned as a curvy swastika, though if all they want is “awareness” then they should. That’s what the agency claim they were after: awareness — “and see you’re talking about it at the water cooler, we win!” More talking means more awareness. On a painfully oblivious level the advert works to remind you that Aids exists and is killing lots of people. Being a European campaign this could be considered enough. Germany has an HIV-positive prevalence rate of 0.1%. Across Europe it is still a (comparatively) rare occurrence with 2.2 million people living as HIV positive. I don’t support the advert or the message but Germany’s concern is not their infected population. In South Africa if we see an HIV-positive man on television he’s usually just run a marathon or built a house in an advert for insurance.
What’s frustrating is our campaigns against HIV haven’t worked either. Plus LoveLife only ever showed a naked woman if she was pregnant and without a head. The sad part is, like any argument, if anyone mentions Hitler or the Holocaust it means they are truly out of answers. Which I guess everyone has to admit — when it comes to Aids “awareness” — the well is dry.