As I zipped through one of London’s less chaotic airports yesterday, my eye was caught by this giant poster behind the cash registers at The Body Shop.
In case anyone misses the (very English) pun, lippy is short for lipstick, but also describes someone who is straight-talking, in a rude, counter-culture kind of way. If you spend a fiver (around ten dollars) on a pot of Guarana lip balm, The Body Shop will give £2.80 to an anti-AIDS group. The Body Shop wants you to get lippy, too. “By talking to your friends and family you’re helping to spread the word, breaking down taboos and smashing ignorance,” they say. But the leaflet demanding that we “Get Lippy” is curiously coy about the facts. We do get this:
“Globally, women are more susceptible to HIV than men, but in the UK, men are actually more susceptible.”
Hmm. Why could that be? Because three out of four new infections taking place in the UK right now are contracted in anal sex between men, perhaps? You wouldn’t know it from the leaflet, which doesn’t mention anal sex or sex between men at all. No mention of drug injection either, though if the UK didn’t have such good safe injecting programmes, that would be a major source of new infections, as it is in so many other European, Asian, North American and Latin American countries.
I’m pleased that groups like The Body Shop keep HIV in the public eye. They’re probably being coy because they are paranoid about being seen to stigmatise gay men. It’s an understandable concern. But we’re not going to beat HIV by being coy: we have to address the risk where it exists. In most of the world, that means getting lippy about unprotected anal sex between men, and needle sharing among drug injectors.
(For more on the campaign see moveyourlips.com)