Last night I saw the Government's latest sexual health campaign advert. The advert has scenes of "yoof" out on the pull, whilst their underwear say things like "I've got chlamydia" on them. The reason behind the ads is a steep and recent increase in the amount of STDs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia.
What is interesting is that at no point in the adverts is HIV mentioned (at elast not in the adverts I have seen). It's as if it doesn't even exist. And yet last year, the UK diagnosed the most case of HIV infection across the European union. The research suggests that complacency is setting in.
As the advances in treatment have progressed so to has the emphasis away from HIV prevention strategies. The new adverts from the Government seem to bear that analysis out. It seems today the curable infections are more important than the HIV. That is surely not a good situation to be in?
The ironic thing though is that the rise of these curable STDs is arguably linked to the downgrading of HIV prevention. My generation, and I am only 31, have the memory of Freddie Mercury, Philadelphia, MTV AIDS adverts that galvanised our awareness. The young, and by that I mean teenagers and those in their early twenties, have not had that, the memory is not there for them.
It is, of course, vitally important that the Department of Health take a lead in creating awareness of STDs, but it should include, at the very top of that strategy, HIV and AIDS. Telling a teenager that he might get a bit itchy for a few months will never quite have the impact that telling he might be dead will have. We should not let our complacency encourage their ignorance.