A controversial billboard is making motorists do a double–take while driving on Interstate 10.
The billboard is bringing awareness to a big problem in Louisiana, but some say it is offensive.
This week, a church–based AIDS prevention group put up new advertising along the interstate–understanding that its tactics may be unorthodox–to address the number of HIV/AIDS cases that it believes are near unprecedented.
“In 2007, the New Orleans metro area ranked No. 2 in the nation of metro cities (for HIV/AIDS cases), ” said Tamachia Davenport, of the St. John Faith Church.
While their message is one intended to be relatable to the community, their tactics could be considered controversial. The billboard features a group of so–called “HIV prevention mobsters,” each with a different gang name linked to a sexually transmitted disease.
Names include “Da Gonorrhea Breaker,” “Da Crabs Assassin ” and “Chlamydia Crusher. ”
Some consider the display offensive.
“We have learned over the years that the mere fact that we are doing HIV prevention can be offensive,” Davenport said. “For those that don’t like it, we take the time out to educate them about HIV and why we are in this fight. ”
The fight goes beyond New Orleans. A report from the state Department of Health and Hospitals indicates that Louisiana ranks fifth in the nation for AIDS case rates, and most of those affected are African–American–accounting for more than 70 percent of new HIV/AIDS cases in the state last year.
The group said it believes that, by depicting AIDS as a gangster, it may hit home that the disease is a killer.
“We do understand that we will have those nay–sayers,” Davenport said. “We’re supposed to do this, so we are not backing down.”
There are several billboards from the church across the city. The group members said they think the advertising is effective because they are getting more and more calls for HIV testing.
More than 30 percent of new HIV/AIDS cases affect women. In 2007, Baton Rouge ranked just behind New Orleans as third for AIDS case rates in metropolitan areas.