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AIDS is a Mass Murderer

Aids is a Mass Murderer

by Ayanda Moholi / 23.07.2010

AIDS is a mass murderer. In essence, this statement is true. The “big disease with a little name” does slay millions annually. Now I’m not here tell you to strap on a condom before you get your freak on. Though that is never a bad idea. It’s just that there are ways of telling us stuff we need to know. There are good ways – with humor, precision, and loads of info we can actually use. And there are bad ways – heavy handed, ham fisted, overwraught. A pair of German ad agencies, Das Comitee and Regenbogen e.V, have developed a truly disturbing way to get the “AIDS message” out there. It’s so “bad” on the one hand that its been banned on several national screens in Europe, the promotional website has just been shut down, and even video sharing networks are scrupulously deleting it. But it’s so “good” on the other, that it forces you to consider uncomfortable questions, including the nature of your own responsibility in the face of an epidemic. Injustice in an era of wide-spread social repression.

The campaign, AIDS is a mass murderer, compares the undeniably devastating impact of the disease to the murderous totalitarian era (1930s – 1950s) of Hitler and Stalin. This is one of the darkest seasons in hell humanity has ever known. So to invoke it in an ad campaign is brilliantly bold, granted, but really fucking problematic! It is a bizarre comparison – yet creepily valid in a way. Just as we still don’t know where the disease sprung from definitively, from nature or human behaviour, or the interaction of the two, historians still debate the contributing factors behind the “reign of terror” of Nazism and State Socialism: was it an “evil” in us, or the inevitable consequence of warring national economies?

Anyway, the ad campaign weirdly implies that anyone with “Stalin and Hitler affinities” – racists, bigots, the insufficiently enlightened – are the carriers of the disease. Wrong ideas, bad social outlooks, the campaign suggests, spread the virus. Essentially, it says to all those men and women who refuse to get tested, and help save others: You enable murder. Just like the millions of everyday German citizens who looked the other way during Nazism. Or whites during Apartheid, or in the racist American south. Or many Israelis today.

The creators of the provocative campaign explain it:
“Our campaign to mark World AIDS Day 2009 speaks in clear terms: the new slogan is AIDS is a mass murderer. The few mass murderers who have claimed a similar number of human lives are shown: Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Saddam Hussein. The campaign is designed to shake people up, to bring the topic of AIDS back to centre stage, and to reverse the trend of unprotected sexual intercourse. Because anyone can become infected.”

Whatever else it may be, the campaign is certainly more ambitious and vital than the boring and rather embarrassing “sex talks” by painfully well-meaning guest speakers at school or, god-forbid, your mother! The AIDS is a mass murderer videos play like perfume adverts – lovers fondle and make out, they undress, the lighting is seductive, the heat is on. The guy’s face is unseen until… Dum! Dum! Dum! Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein: making the love!

Beyond the dictator hype for shock affect, this male-centredness implies that men are the sole carriers of the “death sentence” – the only ones implementing “mass murder.” AIDS activists and charities have “condemned [it] as stigmatizing and ill-conceived .” Released to coincide with World Aids Day, organisations strayed away, “saying that it could make life more difficult for sufferers,” according to The Telegraph.

Aptly, Now Public, pointed out that AIDS statistics in themselves are more frightening than any advertising campaign could ever be.

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RESPONSES (19)
  1. Anonymous says:

    Coolness. Check the spelling of your surname! Great stuff.

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  2. Ayanda says:

    Yeah…its MOholi…Thanks 🙂

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  3. Andy says:

    I blame Brandon… apologies

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  4. ndu says:

    Well this quite the campaign…I’m not even sure how I feel abt it yey but the message shud be spread either way.

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  5. Po says:

    Perhaps the biggest problem with this campaign is that it gave me a hard on…

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  6. Anonymous says:

    I take issue with the opening advertisement – why are all the men being demonised as spreaders of AIDS?

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Oh, sorry – she deals with that in the body of the aricle.

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  8. Jerry says:

    Depth… sadly ppl are still gonna jam without protection… Ai…

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  9. Brian Green says:

    This series of adverts came out over a year ago. On the ball you are, Mahalaaaaa

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  10. Andy says:

    Thanks Brian… we discussed this internally. But none of us had seen the ads, or heard about the campaign. And the story was written 2 days ago. So instead of being all snarky and dismissive, we decided to engage with it. It’s not like AIDS is going anywhere fast…

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  11. K says:

    hahaha Brian’s got on point though, this is 2000 n late. I’m surprised this only just made news in S.A…or is it just a Mahala thing? Anyway I do wonder how Africans would react if it was a series of images with a series of African dictators or European colonialists? Controversy and deep-seated objections aside, I could see Terreblanche replacing Stalin. Just to get tongues wagging Mahala should try replace the images if possible – same concept just different faces and see how readers respond.

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  12. Brian Green says:

    @Andy In all honesty bud, I, like thousands others, really dig this site. This particular ones slipped you okes, though

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  13. Anonymous says:

    @brian: So does that mean you don’t like the story?!

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  14. akona says:

    Late or not, I hadn’t heard or seen the campaign, so thanks for sharing.

    Ayanda, the piece is well written.

    Interesting campaign – I like the angle, although, as you mention, it does make it seem like men are the only killers.
    To the uneducated this may seem like another excuse, for let’s say, non white males and women of all races, not to get themselves and partners tested or practice safe sex.
    Another angle not covered by the campaign is the victim – not people who had no choice and are infected involuntarily – but rather the ones who choose not use protection with an untested partner or multiple partners and then like cowards use the ‘love’ or heat of the moment’ card.

    Nice one Ayanda.

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  15. Ayanda says:

    @Brian: I saw this campaign last year too. But seeing as you and K are the only others amongst us that have heard of or seen this, it would still deem relevant to many. So whether it is old or not, I ask you, is it a crap piece?! Yes, Mahala should be on top of things but it’s also about great writing and great writing has no expiration.

    Unfortunately, a great amount of the world is ignorant. Unable to fathom the point of the campaign in not knowing who these ‘figures’ are to begin with…But then again, its a German ad………………..and its in English.

    Lastly, whether the ad campaign was successful or not, it was very one trackminded and not sensitive to the many sociological issues that it implicitly brought up such as it being the ‘male-oriented’ disease…

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  16. antoinette says:

    0ww w0w speechless gosh if only ppl could read dis article,dis is s0 true!!aids is most def a mass murderer

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  17. Omps says:

    this campaign is an interesting way of spreading the message. a welcome change from the humdrum Abstain Be faithful Condomise. i must say the graphics are pretty “catchy” lol!. thanks for bringing it to my attention…good work Yandizzle!!

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  18. Anon says:

    Ths is very relevant & scaryingly enough,pple take note of these campaigns when it becomes a reality & when u r stuck in limbo over the subject..

    Wish we could all heed the advice & expell risks,its just not worth it!

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  19. […] on Mahala (see for video) […]

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