“I’m a professional, religious, a mother, and I live with HIV”, says the ad with the photo of a 42 year-old women. Her name is Iris López, and she is the coordinator of the National Aids Commission in Guatemala (CONASIDA). From her position – over the last couple of years – she has become the voice of the silent minority of people living with HIV.
Her story was being shown throughout the Guatemala city as part of an ad campaign supported by Hivos, the Global Fund and the Fernando Iturbide Foundation. The campaign aimed at fostering respect for and reducing stigma and discrimination against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or people living with HIV.
The adverts, however, triggered anger and disapproval. The agency responsible for the advertising panels said their phones were ringing off the hook with calls from irate people who verbally abused them and demanded that the ads be withdrawn from public areas. On the 21st of June, 70 ads were taken down from the streets.
The campaign’s radio spots were also pulled by a radio broadcaster, with the station claiming that “the campaign went against their beliefs”.
Despite the barrage of complaints, this week the ads were reinstated throughout the city and will remain in place for six months. The radio spots will also be aired again. After further negotiation it was decided that the ads would not be broadcast through the original station, but rather through 949 FM.
About the campaign
The campaign “To Reduce Stigma and Discrimination” was first launched on the 10th of June. Its images hit the streets on advertising panels, digital walkways and on the backs of local buses. The spots are also airing on television and in cinemas.
The campaign is based on the study “Stigma and discrimination facing people with HIV, men who have sex with men and female sex workers”, carried out by Hivos. The research aimed to identify the myths and misconceptions regarding these groups prevailing amongst the Guatemala population.
Hivos is the principal recipient of the Global Fund in Guatemala, managing $21 million over three years, with the possibility of being extended three more years. Along with 30 NGOs and community based organizations, Hivos seeks to raise awareness among Guatemalan society about HIV/AIDS and the social exclusion faced by populations at risk.