Prevention PSAs need more pleasure

VIENNA, Austria—Public Service Announcements (P.S.AS) on HIV prevention are missing the mark in conveying pleasure. HIV Coordinating Team (HCT) member Donellis Browne made this point Tuesday when he spoke at the 18th International AIDS Conference in Vienna at a session titled "Sex and Sexuality: Youth Perspectives on Pleasure and Prevention: What do we need in 2010?". 

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The session was aimed at discussing sex & sexuality, gender identity and social norms.

Browne began his presentation by likening a descending aircraft at Princess Juliana International Airport to the problems faced by vulnerable groups in terms of effectively merging pleasure with HIV prevention. This was a specific commentary on his experience with Public Service Announcements (P.S.As), which he feels are "missing the mark" and not making an impact on all cross sections of youth.

"Where I think they [PSAs] fell short is that they focused solely on heterosexual relationships, meaning that even on our friendly island the conservative, and less expressive part of our culture, has dictated the images we see enforcing just one sexuality," Browne said.

He suggested that campaigns should try to match the spectrum of their intended audience adding that messages aimed at specific groups such as Lesbians, Gays, bisexuals and Trans-genders (LGBT) stand a better chance of making an impact. Browne believes once young people can relate to the information provided there is a better chance of them successfully mixing pleasure with prevention.

Browne also pointed out it is important for young people to be taught that sex is not immoral and devoid of pleasure. He believes they should also be taught that there are also responsibilities with the pleasure of sex.

"Sex education and the policies around it must make the real choice to teach young people that their bodies are a wonderland. It must also teach them that sexual diversity in orientation and activity is something to be celebrated, not to be ashamed of," Browne said.

Andrei Carlescu, a 22 year old from Romania who was born with HIV, presented a touching presentation. He told his story of being HIV positive and sharing this information with his girlfriend. Breaking down into tears he said the first time he had sex with his girlfriend it was beautiful and the most special night of his life but the experience was over shadowed by guilt and worry before, during and after the act over whether he’d infected her or not.

A young transgender from Namibia, Annanias Haufiku said transgender young people were severely discriminated against especially by authorities. Haufiku related a personal experience of being beaten up just for being a transgender and when Haufiku went to the police station to report the case, was denied to help. The case was never officially reported and later when Haufiku went to the hospital to receive medical attention, the nurses and doctors refused to help. Haufiku stressed that the transgendered community needs more access to hormone therapy to boost their sense of belonging in their skin and called for greater support of right.

Carla Daher, of Lebanon complained that her country’s repressive position on sex education forces her to be dishonest. She said to get approval to attend the conference she had to omit the fact that she would be a speaker discussing sex, sexuality, pleasure and prevention. She said had she disclosed the fact that she openly talks about sex she would be judged in a negative way.

In Lebanon there is no form of sex education in school, parents refuse to discuss the topic, especially with girls, and very little is said about it in the media. She said these realities of life in her country negatively impact HIV prevention efforts and forces youngsters to explore sex without proper guidance.