Get lippy (but don’t get gay)

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.

Body Shop Get Lippy campaign

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)

This post was published on 03/04/08 in Ideology and HIV.

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  1. Comment by The Bookseller to the Stars, 03/04/08, 08:54:

    Good job I’m only having anal sex with women then, isn’t it?

    You know, it’s great that someone like The Body Shop is doing anything AT ALL. I suspect that the now chairperson (as Anita died, unfortunately) of the company was forced to read an article on the First Class over the atlantic between courses and when the stewardess filled up their champagne flute.

    As much as we need to change idealism, big business will be coy and it wont change very soon until alienation and stigmatisation of the disease is changed. I don’t see any politician in the world EVER having the balls to do that. It’s going to take someone within popular culture to do that. Whether it be Elizabeth Pisani, Bono or The Bookseller to the Stars.

    It’s a shame that people who have the power cannot utilise it, instead they look very much to those outside with more influence on their voters.

    Why else would Oasis be let into Downing Street?

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