Subscribe to:
POZ magazine
Join POZ: Facebook MySpace Twitter Pinterest
Tumblr Google+ Flickr MySpace
POZ Personals
Sign In / Join

"It is Never Just HIV": The debate that never happened


The current heated and polarized "debate" over the  "It's Never Just HIV"  by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is not a debate at all.  It has become an "attack and condemn" shouting match where the winner takes all.  No prisoners are allowed and those who hold an opposing view are just plain wrong and need to be dismissed.  It has become a verbal nightmare of "If you are not with us then you are against us". 

It has also become a personal issue of shame and remorse on my part because I played a role in this mockery that is just as pathetic as anyone elses'.  I stood my ground, wrote emotionally, and offended some people I truly respect.  I was also hammered into the ground publicly and privately.  So here is my mea culpa.  I was wrong to jump into the fray swinging and I am sorry.   But, it needs to be said that I was just one of many.  All of us who attacked felt we were somehow justified.  We were not.  I was not.  There is never a real justification for this behavior we all displayed so publicly.

To make my position clear, I still support the "Its Never Just HIV" PSA.  I do not find it offensive as a gay man living with AIDS.   I find it horrifically true from my thirty years of clinical practice as an HIV specialist.  Living with HIV is never just about one virus.  Living with HIV is about your life being twisted like two cars in a head on collision.  Some of us are lucky and able to extract ourselves from the wreckage and get on with our lives; others never do.

I have not seen anyone really disputing the facts of the PSA, but rather the presentation.  Some have argued that PSA will only reach a small portion of the population.  They may have a point.  But my point is that reaching that small segment is still critical.  Lets take this opportunity to address HIV as THE forgotten worldwide health crisis that it is.   There are many more groups of people to be reached and not just the gay men depicted in this PSA.

The patients I see daily are primarily heterosexual, people of color, and female.  My patients are a tough population.  They are older, have numerous aging and HIV related health problems, live on very limited incomes from social security or disability, are "wet" (a term used to mean still actively using drugs and alcohol) and are feeding themselves from food pantries.  I don't want another new HIV patient, but I know that is a foolish dream. 

Many people who are appalled at my support of this ad wonder if I have lost my mind, others attacked my professional credibility, and still others just called me names just as I did in my replies.  I think the time for this nonsense to stop is now.  Those of us who care passionately about HIV prevention, and that includes every one screaming at each other, have got to take it down a notch.  We have all lost perspective in pursing our agendas. We have all made grand assumptions, myself included, which have morphed into what should have been a discussion into a nasty screaming match.

So here is why I support the ad as clearly and unemotionally as I can. I feel this PSA is real and honest.  Simple as that.  Others have dissected every frame of the PSA, and stated their objections for the graphics, the language, the implications of their perceived fear mongering, and even equating the anal cancer section of the PSA with somehow being an attack on gay male sexuality.

I would direct anyone who feels this PSA to be to fear promoting to view a recent PSA/short film done in South Wales on texting while driving.  (You can view this PSA at

I have never been so moved from a piece of health prevention education that took sterile facts and figures and dramatized them into a reality that will lance the viewer's heart and mind.  Translating dull well-known facts about health hazards into a graphic message in the age of sound bites, and satisfying the insatiable need for immediate communication is not promoting fear in my book.  It translates dry academic research into reality just as I feel the HIV PSA does. 

Again I can only speak from my view on this very emotional bridge, but I would like my view to be heard and discussed and not condemned just because it is different.  I also owe this same respect to those that see things from their view on their bridge.

Hear me clearly for one last time.  I am as guilty of the shouting and nastiness as anyone else.  I did wrong.  I suckered punched some very good people with very good intentions.  I was wrong to do so but I was not alone.

It is now our call on how to move forward.  We can continue to shout and name call or we can sit down like grown ups and move the HIV prevention agenda to where it needs to be for everyone.  It is time to work together rather than stand on our cyber divides and scream at each other.

So let's stand down, calm down, and talk.  Put away the rhetoric and name-calling and have a meaningful discussion like adults.  As I have said before it is time to listen to the great American philosopher Pogo:  "We have met the enemy and he is us."



Show Comment(s)

Comments on Richard Ferri, PhD, ANP's blog entry ""It is Never Just HIV": The debate that never happened"

Beautifully stated. Let's see if people's actions and beliefs for ALL life overshadow their politics.

Did you have a lobotomy?

And your comment means?

Richard, I live in the midwest, so I've not seen the PSA, but from what I gather it's rather graphic. Good. As a 23 year survivor of HIV/AIDS and having been to more doctors than I would like, I'd say the PSA is correct. My first partner died of encephalopathy in the early 90's, my second was diagnosed with Hep C and died in 2008 of an oxycontin overdose. I've had bouts of anal warts and was found to have an anal cancer lesion two years ago that was removed.

My point, is that no matter how scary the PSA is, it isn't scary enough. I now have a bad disc in my back, numbness in my legs and a hernia. Five years ago I was diagnosed as diabetic, and my doc tells me that's very common in long-term AIDS patients. I take 27 pills/day plus pain medication when needed, and give myself insulin. I walk with a cane out in public because I never know when my legs will decide to buckle on me.

I hope the PSA scares as many people as possible. Maybe then people will begin to see that AIDS is a scary thing. It is.

The ad is a video gay bashing. It should be investigated as the hate crime it is. Those responsible should be appropriately punished, not only with the end of their careers and revocation of their professional credentials, but with jail time.

For a man with so many fancy letters after his name, you display apalling insensitivity, lack of insight and wisdom, even stupidity. You have lost friends and credibility? You feel shame and remorse? That is better than you deserve. It is time for you to retire. Go tattoo shop or something.

Sorry John..I will take more than a cyber bully to keep from talking and writing.

25 years of living with AIDS here - plus 30 years of advocacy, preparation & distribution of HIV info materials and years of ACT UP confrontation - and I'll stand with Richard Ferri and Larry Kramer on this 'hit them over the head' approach to prevention. I'm frankly fucking sick of hearing the newly diagnosed tell me: I don't know what I was thinking or why I let him fuck me without a condom and, you know, come to think of it, I can't remember a single AIDS/HIV prevention ad, because they didn't sink in.

Thanks Dr. Ferri for all your wisdom. I always look forward to your opinions. I need a kick in the rear sometimes to get it after being positive for 21 and so years! STILL !!!

Leave a comment



My Favorite Links

Subscribe to Blog

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Richard Ferri published on January 9, 2011 7:59 PM.

The Pharmacology of Me was the previous entry in this blog.

A Dent in the Wall is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



The opinions expressed by the bloggers and by people providing comments are theirs alone. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Smart + Strong and/or its employees.

Smart + Strong is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information contained in the blogs or within any comments posted to the blogs.

© 2016 Smart + Strong. All Rights Reserved. Terms of use and Your privacy