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“Sex Positive” AIDS Foundation Calls To Destigmatize HIV With Colorful Penis-Filled Video

Natasha Biase

A sex-positive AIDS foundation in New Zealand is raising concerns after launching a campaign seeking to destigmatize HIV infection. The campaign, which features cartoon penis mascots, encourages gay men to avoid asking if their partner is “clean.”

The campaign, titled “don’t be a dick getting dick,” was launched by the Burnett Foundation Aotearoa last week, and features colorful, penis-shaped mascots. In the guidance, published to their official website, the Foundation explains that asking someone if they are “clean” is both harmful and offensive.

“This wording implies that they’re somehow dirty,” explains the organization, which was formerly named the New Zealand AIDS Foundation & Ending HIV NZ. “Not only is that offensive, but it’s also harmful and seriously stigmatizing. People in our communities should know better than to do exactly what our queer forebears were fighting against. Stigma keeps people in the shadows and causes even more harm.”

The guidance then claims that “framing the question in such a negative light” may “discourage other people from getting tested, for fear of finding out that they’re not ‘clean’ anymore.” As a result, the Foundation argues this will lead to more HIV transmissions.

The Foundation also explains that asking someone if they are clean is an illogical approach to preventing HIV transmission and suggests asking someone when they last tested for the sexually transmitted infection instead. The guidance adds that it is “safer” to have sex with someone who has tested positive for HIV in the last six months because they are being treated then to have sex with someone whose status is unknown.

“Reminder: The person who is openly living with HIV and on treatment – who would fail your genius ‘are you ‘clean’?’ method – is not actually able to transmit HIV to you, so is a safer hookup than the person who says ‘Yup’ and last tested over 6 months ago,” the Foundation claims.

Instead of promoting safe sex and condom use, the Foundation concludes its guidance by sympathizing with men who don’t want to use condoms and recommends talking to a health professional about getting a prescription for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a preventative medicine for people at risk for HIV.

“If you find you get caught up in the moment a lot, we get it. They’re really hot and you’re really horny. You’ve got a hungry hole and they can give you some release. Talking to a health provider about getting on PrEP would be a great idea for you – then you know that you’re protected, no matter how quickly things move.”

In addition to its web guidance, the Foundation has published a music video to its Instagram account encouraging people to “fight HIV stigma.” The 15-second reel features animated multi-coloured penises dancing to a song about “loving dick.”

In one scene, an animated erect penis receives a text message from someone asking it if it is ‘clean’ before expressing sadness and becoming flaccid. The scene occurs as the lyrics of the accompanying song say: “Asking ‘Are you clean?’ can be pretty mean. Now you’re just being a dick, dick, dick. Eat a dick, ride a dick, just don’t be a dick getting dick.”

The reel received nearly 21,000 views on Instagram and dozens of comments from people praising the Foundation’s marketing efforts.

One Instagram user who goes by the handle @HollieLovesPlants commented: “Greatttt. Now I’ve got a new song to go around my head all day!”

On X (formerly Twitter), the video has received decidedly different reactions, with many users expressing outrage and concern about the nonchalant tone of the campaign.

“When I saw this yesterday I couldn’t believe it. In NZ most of our orgs, institutions, govt depts have lost the plot completely. The most sinister reading of this is that they are ensuring the longevity of their org,” Kiwi journalist Ani O’Brien wrote in response to user @Slatzism, who uploaded the music video to her account today.

“This is so stupid that it should win an award for stupidity,” @hatpinwoman wrote.

Although the Foundation insists new HIV diagnoses have declined since 2017, it admits that gay and bisexual men have a 348 times greater risk of contracting the virus than heterosexual people and states that over 3,000 people are currently being treated for the virus in New Zealand.

Burnett Foundation Aotearoa is primarily funded by grants, donations, and funding from New Zealand’s Ministry of Health. On its website, it primarily focuses on offering resources and advice to “gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men.”

In addition to its HIV destigmatization efforts, it also offers guidance on urination fetishes, polyamory, “mindful masturbation,” and having sex while on meth.

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Natasha Biase

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