For 11 years, Act Up-Paris has been demanding targeted, continuous mass media campaigns that would speak openly both about practices creating risk of AIDS and means of self-protection. It was only in the summer of 1999, nearly twenty years after the beginning of the epidemic that one could finally find a homosexual speaking on television, at midnight, about AIDS and sexuality as part of a prevention campaign.
The prevention policies of French health institutions still determine the means used to communicate with " everybody " , which means people who do not prostitute themselves, who do not frequent prostitutes, who are not unfaithful to their spouses, who are neither incarcerated nor foreign, who are over 18 years old but under 35. Prevention messages targeting homosexual audiences are systematically relegated to low viewing times, assuming they first escape government censorship. Population groups with the highest risk of infection are simply absent from mass media campaigns on the pretext of not wanting to stigmatize them. The stigmatization argument is nothing more than a hypocritical version of a policy of exclusion. It is an implicit admission that prevention efforts should only be undertaken when it is a matter of white heterosexuals being affected ; too bad for the others, who are sacrificed without regret. Allowing blacks, North Africans, homosexuals, drug users, women and prisoners to be presented to the general public, not just to their own groups in specialized publications, would be a reminder to all that AIDS is a problem that concerns each one of us. All studies show that one takes better care of himself/herself when he/she feels less excluded.
However, prevailing attitudes mean that the Secretary of State for Health only addresses foreigners on the occasion of meager partnerships with regional radio stations ; no means of prevention has included prisoners : Dominique Gillot has abandoned HIV prevention to the care of the Prison Administration.
There is another sign of the indifference of public authorities vis-à-vis populations that are the hardest hit by the epidemic : the absence of any real epidemiology. For the past two years, no one has known the number of HIV positive persons in France for lack of a centralized data processing system. At best, there is fragmented information from which the evolution of the epidemic is estimated by extrapolation, without measuring the true magnitude of new infections. The resurgence of STDs in the homosexual community is interpreted as an indication of a rise in risk-taking behavior, without knowing how many people may have been infected. By maintaining this state of ignorance, public authorities legitimize their inaction. Without real epidemiological data, the epidemic no longer exists, and demands for prevention can be swept away.
Act Up-Paris incessantly presents these criticisms to the pilot prevention committee set up by the General Health Directorate (DGS), which for the past year has been responsible for establishing campaign priorities.