Saturday, January 22, 2011

 NYC Scary HIV Ad 'Contract' Omits . . .

We're into our second month of a needless controversy surrounding a stigma-enhancing New York City Department of Health HIV prevention ad, and a vital component to the debate has been missing.

That would be the contract from DOH, providing the public with details about some of the scientific reasoning behind the "It's Never Just HIV" social marketing campaign, and the measurable outcomes, community goals and health objectives the NYC officials expect.

A few weeks back, I filed a request for the contract and what I received via email yesterday was a 61-page document that is an agreement between the DOH and the Mind4 Inc ad marketing agency for a number of campaigns. When it became clear the outcomes and objectives were omitted, I sent the document over to Duncan Osborn, longtime AIDS reporter for Gay City News, to get his thoughts on it. He said:

It's not a contract to do that specific ad. It's a contract to provide both agencies with creative development services and media campaigns. That ad is one of several that they have done for the health department. That contract is worth just under $4,950,000 over three years. Pretty much everything after page 15 through the start of Annex A looks like boilerplate. If you look at the start of Annex B on page 49, you will see that DCF billed part of the their services at cost plus 12 percent. I don't know if that is high, low, or standard for such contracts. 

Since Duncan is a pro at filing requests for public records, I very much expected he would have already beaten a path to the contracts bureau of DOH, which have made so much easier for me to get the desired appropriate contract, but that's not the case.

As far as I know, no one has yet obtained the contract for the HIV campaign, and I hope DOH will son locate it and release it to me. Heck, they could do all of a huge favor and just post it on the NYC DOH's page for HIV/AIDS programs, to provide full transparency over every aspect of the ad.

I've communicated via email and phone calls with the DOH press office, regarding my qualms with was sent and further specified the public records I want. The press office has a better understanding now and is going back to the contracts bureau to have them look again and I'm promised an update early next week.

To show folks the processes it takes using New York's Freedom of Information Law to get a public contract, I'm not only writing this post but I've also posted what was sent to me so anyone can have a look at it, because it is tangentially related to the controversy. Click here to view the 61-page contract.

This is a valuable opportunity to educate everyone about how California's health department clearly spelled out the plan, measurable results and objectives of a recent social marketing campaign regarding anti-meth abuse and the devastating health influence meth has on users. The Me Not Meth contract contains 73-pages and I've made it publicly available here.

Starting on page 16, that California contract gives tons of details and explanations on the thinking that created the campaign, what the health authorities expect to accomplish, and how meth abusers will be helped. Once you glance at that info, you'll have a better sense of what it is I am expecting from NYC's DOH.

Gay health advocates and HIV prevention activists would be wise to adamantly insist upon the contract of every social marketing campaign by any city, state or federal public health agency ought to be posted on the sponsoring agency's web site whenever a new campaign is launched.

The debate about the fear-driven NYC HIV prevention ad requires that we all become familiar with the contract. That will happen soon enough with the help of the DOH press office.

1 comment:

ish said...

I had seen this ad from a link on the blogs but I finally saw it run on TV last night. Even my apolitical boyfriend was horrified.

What bothers me is not even the scare tactics of flashing "ANAL CANCER!!!!" on the screen at the dinner hour but how the men all look creepy, shifty, embarrassed and untrustworthy. Their gaze at the camera is furtive: these HIV-ridden fellows are just waiting to try to give you, the watcher, their dirty AIDS. The dirty anal cancer that each of these men secretly guards is finally exposed! An absolutely disgusting portrayal of gay men.