Community Groups Demand Reinstatement of Bus Shelter Ad
(NEW YORK, June 28) —Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and other community organizations issued a joint statement Thursday supporting the Bronx Lesbian and Gay Health Consortium and its attempts to promote potentially life-saving health care in the Bronx community. The statement calls for the immediate return of Consortium advertisements that were yanked this week from Bronx bus shelters.
“These ads provided critical information to a community too often ignored,” said Lambda AIDS Project Director Catherine A Hanssens. “At a time when the incidence of HIV infection among men of color who have sex with men is rising dramatically, it’s up to all of us to support increased outreach and awareness,” she said.
In the statement, Lambda, with groups and individuals including Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, the Center for HIV/AIDS Education and Training, Gay Men of the Bronx, Latino Commission on AIDS, Mano a Mano, and Dr. Jeffrey Birnbaum, director of Health & Education Alternatives for Teens, Adolescent HIV Program at SUNY Downstate Medical Center/Kings County Medical, condemns the removal of the ads and calls for a more supportive and respectful approach to health education efforts, saying: “Infinity Outdoor’s decision to remove these ads is both rash and irresponsible and will weaken efforts to combat the spread of infectious diseases like HIV, Hepatitis, and Gonorrhea, and the management of chronic health problems like depression, drug use, and suicide in the Bronx. Allowing random complaints about the ad to cause its removal makes access to quality health education and HIV prevention education in New York City subject to the ‘heckler’s veto.’ This cannot be permitted.”
Joint Statement Supporting Health Education Advertising in the Bronx
As organizations and individuals committed to access to quality and comprehensive health care and HIV prevention programs, we recognize the critical importance of targeted education that can successfully reach all communities and all people. We strongly oppose the decision by Infinity Outdoor, Inc., with the apparent support of New York City’s Department of Transportation, to remove from city bus shelters primary health care education advertisements sponsored by the Bronx Lesbian and Gay Health Consortium.
The bus shelter ads were carefully constructed to encourage men and women in the Bronx community, who have not been successfully reached by other HIV education , to seek life-saving information and health care. Both the picture and the text of the ads are entirely appropriate for a public venue. In fact, the ads contain absolutely no nudity or graphic sexual language. Infinity Outdoor’s decision to remove these ads is both rash and irresponsible and will weaken efforts to combat the spread of infectious diseases like HIV, Hepatitis, and Gonorrhea, and the management of chronic health problems like depression, drug use and suicide in the Bronx. Allowing random complaints about the ad to cause its removal makes access to quality health education and HIV prevention education in New York City subject to the “heckler’s veto.” This cannot be permitted.
We call on Infinity Outdoor and the New York City Department of Transportation to work cooperatively with the Bronx Lesbian and Gay Health Consortium to restore immediately the ads to city bus shelters and to provide fair and respectful treatment to all future health education efforts. Both Infinity Outdoor and the City must make the health of all members of the Bronx community the top priority. HIV prevention education cannot be held hostage to the special sensitivities or moralizing of a few.
Callen-Lorde Community Health Center
Center for HIV/AIDS Education and Training
Gay Men of the Bronx
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund
Latino Commission on AIDS
Mano a Mano
Jeffrey Birnbaum, MD, MPH, director, Health & Education Alternatives for Teens, Adolescent HIV Program, SUNY Downstate Medical Center/Kings County Medical Center
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