Vangardist, a self-described revolutionary men’s magazine, is trying once again to draw the public’s attention to AIDS and HIV with a provocative move in its latest issue.
The cover of the magazine was printed by using HIV-positive blood as ink, and the interior features a special edition with “HIV hero” stories. Editors were prompted by their belief that the world has become increasingly ignorant about this condition.
Jason Romeyko is Executive Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi Switzerland, an advertising agency who helped design the cover. He told CBS News that according to the World Health Organization, HIV cases have increased with 80 percent in the last decade – a shocking information in itself. And what’s more, people stopped talking about the disease, which is one of the reasons it is increasing so much in frequency.
Romeyko’s hopes are that this special edition of the magazine will help rekindle the international conversation, and its blunt cover is already making ripples, for sure.
Vangardist has its headquarters in Vienna, where it publishes both in German and English. Most of its 100,000 readership that reads its issue every month are mostly accessing it online. The special HIV+ issue is limited, as it was printed in just 3,000 copies.
For its creation, three people living with an HIV-positive diagnose volunteered to donate some blood for the bold initiative. They also got to tell their stories, which are featured in the magazine.
Romeyko said they are three amazing individuals that come from diverse backgrounds. One of them is a 26-year-old gay man living in Berlin, who describes himself as “one of the most normal guys on the planet.”
The second donor and “HIV hero” is a man who wished to tell his story under the protection of anonymity, as he received his diagnosis rather recently and he still struggles with it.
The third one is a 45-year-old mother, whose story we’re all sadly familiar with: she got infected almost 20 years ago by her then-husband who hid from her the fact that he was HIV-positive.
Some people might find the idea of touching HIV+ blood repulsive or they might fear contamination, the magazine’s editors promised the cover in itself presents no health risk and is “100% safe” to touch.
Romeyko explained that, scientifically, the HIV virus cannot live longer than 30 minutes outside a host. After this time, it decomposes naturally – as confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Moreover, after the donors gave some blood samples, they were pasteurized in a lab at the University of Innsbruck. Through this process, heat is applied, neutralizing the virus and rendering it incapable of transmission.
After that, the blood was added to the ink that is usually used in the printing press. However, it was rather difficult to find a press willing to do the job. The editors then contacted a small print shop that had also produced its very first issue, and found out that the owner wanted to do it himself, in case his employees were reluctant to take part.
Romeyko also explained the deep meaning they wanted to convey with the special edition. For example, when people held the magazine, they can make a comparison and reach the conclusion that there’s nothing wrong or dangerous about holding someone who’s HIV+.
Another example is the precautionary measure they took when they wrapped the magazine in a sealed clear plastic pouch, in case readers would still be squeamish. However, the label says “Break the seal and help break the stigma,” encouraging users to be part of the awareness movement.
The editor is also aware that a lot of people might not be ready for such a hands-on experience; some might be too scared to touch it even so. At the same time, he said there were some AIDS advocacy groups and NGOs that weren’t so thrilled about the project when the magazine consulted them. They believed it might backlash and set off a panic against people with HIV instead.
The issue will reach newsstands only next week, so the public reaction is yet to be judged. Subscribers have already obtained their copies, however, and the conversation about the disease has already received a new spark.
Globally, HIV/AIDS is still the sixth-leading cause of death, and 1.5 million people die because of it each year. With such a great death toll, the magazine’s editors felt it was unfair that we treate is as “old news,” and the only time we remember it is on the occasional “awareness day” it receives in the press.
Image Source: Boston Newstime