'Vanguardist' Magazine Fights HIV Stigma By Using HIV Positive Blood To Print Its Latest Issue

A good awareness campaign needs to grab people's attention, and this one certainly succeeds: Vanguardist magazine has printed an issue with HIV positive blood. It's been certified as completely safe by medical professionals, but it's still kind of freaky to think about — and that's the point. Vanguardist is hoping the move will help break down the continuing stigma surrounding people who are HIV positive.

Vanguardist is a progressive men's magazine based in Vienna and printed in both English and German. This year, they decided that they wanted their spring issue, which comes out just a few weeks before the annual Life Ball in Vienna — one of the biggest AIDS charity fundraisers in the world — to make a statement. In order to help break down the stigma around HIV and AIDS, the spring issue's 3,000 copies will be printed with ink that has been mixed with HIV positive blood. The blood, which was donated by three men living with the virus, was mixed with the ink under the supervision of doctors at Harvard University and Innsbruck University. The doctors have certified that there is no way for the ink to infect anyone with the virus.

Still, it's a move that is probably going to raise a lot of eyebrows — which, of course, is the intention. So much stigma around HIV and AIDS persists that often it doesn't matter if doctors say something is perfectly safe — people are still wary nonetheless. To draw attention to that continuing stigma, each copy of the spring issue of Vanguardist will come wrapped in plastic, inviting people to “Break the seal and help break the stigma.”

"Despite 30 years of campaigning, activism and research, HIV remains the 6th biggest cause of death in the world," Saatchi & Saatchi, the advertising agency that helped create the campaign, said in a statement. "Yet for many people the virus is seen as ‘old news,’ with discussion and debate relegated to just one or two days a year when key communities and organisations around the world force the issue back onto the news agenda."

As they point out, the stigma around HIV and AIDS is one of the many reasons people often don't get tested, which allows the virus to continue to spread. Thus, breaking down the social stigma can ensure that more people get help sooner, making it possible for them to manage the disease and possible to prevent other people from ever being infected.

Julian Wiehl, Publisher and CEO of Vangardist, explained, "We believe that as a lifestyle magazine it is our responsibility to address the issues shaping society today." And in their eyes, that definitely includes HIV and AIDS.

So would you buy an issue of a magazine printed with HIV positive blood? Well, unless you're living in Austria, Germany, or Switzerland, you don't really have the option to. But still, it's an interesting question. Even knowing that the magazine has been certified as safe by experts, the idea is enough to give you pause. But then the power of the magazine is that it gives people a chance to work through that instinctive reaction and recognize it to be part of the stigma the issue is trying to break down. Hopefully it has a big impact.

Image: HIV Heroes/Facebook