Complaint laid because children might see gay AIDS advert

An official complaint was laid over an HIV awareness campaign aimed at gay men because children might see it.

The two men in the poster, produced by the NZ Aids Foundation (NZAF) for the Ending HIV campaign, are wearing pants but are topless. The words read, "We test because we care. Test for HIV. Search Ending HIV. Stay safe + test often + treat early = Ending HIV."

But complainant E O'Donoghue told the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) they found the poster "offensive" because it was "highly sexualised and on full public display".

"It's evident when you look at each poster that sex is either taking place or about to. I'm concerned young children are being exposed to highly sexualised content (would you like your four-year-old to see this?). This should not be on full public display."

The NZAF rejected the criticism, saying it is "socially acceptable to talk about sex and sexual health in the context of HIV", and going public was the only way to reach the majority of gay men.

"In 2016 the NZAF commissioned research into the media consumption habits of our audience," it told the ASA. "Results show that only 14 percent of gay and bisexual men read magazines or websites aimed at gay and bisexual men."

Phantom Billstickers, which owns the locations the poster was run, said both men were wearing trousers, and kissing in public is "generally deemed acceptable" - as are topless men.

A spokesperson told the ASA they use the same test the complainant did when they decided whether or not to accept an advertisement - "would I want my children to see this".

"The public good promoted by this poster (testing enabling safer behaviour and proactive treatment preventing the spread and harm caused by HIV) is in my view considerable we therefore considered it well worth giving people pause to stop and consider."

The ASA complaints board did not uphold the complaint, saying while it was "provocative and sexually suggestive", the poster was "entirely relevant" and its placement appropriate.