A new campaign to raise awareness about HIV infection uses shock tactics to get its message across. The foundation behind it says the pictures are meant to provoke in order to bring the issue of HIV back into focus.
In one of the campaign's posters, a woman dressed in only black panties and high heels kneels in front of a naked man. But in place of his penis, the barrel of a silver pistol is in her mouth. The text accompanying the photo: "There's only .003 mm latex between life and death."
The picture is one of a series of sometimes disconcerting images that have been launched by the Michael Stich Foundation, a group founded by former tennis professional Stich that focuses on HIV/AIDS awareness and works extensively with HIV-infected children in German-speaking countries.
Another one of the campaign's posters shows an infant's face in close-up with the words, "The chin is Grandpa's. The eyes are Daddy's. The HIV is from Mommy."
"The pictures are meant to provoke," Linda von Neree, an employee of the Stich Foundation, told the online site of the daily Die Welt. "Young people especially have lost sight of the problem."
She and many health care experts say HIV and AIDS have largely disappeared from the public's consciousness. Drug therapies developed in the 1990s that have mitigated the worst effects of the disease and lengthened the lives of many have led to the widespread opinion that HIV/AIDS is no longer as serious as it once was. That, in turn, has led to an increase in unsafe sexual practices that can transmit HIV infection.
The campaign's photographs have already appeared in several German newspapers and the foundation has produced an informational spot that will air on television and be shown in cinemas.
Growing infection rates
Medical experts in Germany have been alarmed by a recent increase in new HIV infections in the country. According to the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's center for public health and disease control, 2,700 people in Germany became infected in 2006, a 7.4 percent increase over the previous year.
That follows a 20 percent increase in new HIV infections in the first half of 2005 compared with the first half of 2004.
The institute estimates that around 56,000 people in Germany are living with HIV.
Michael Stich, who won a Wimbledon title in 1991, started his foundation 13 years ago. In addition to the current print and television campaign, the group is running an educational program in schools to teach kids about HIV prevention.
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