Marjorie Hill is the CEO of Gay Men's Health Crisis, the oldest AIDS service organization in the world. She is the first African American to become the head of a major LGBT organization. She is also a licensed clinical psychologist, having received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Adelphi University. Before joining GMHC, she worked for the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene as well as former New York Mayor David Dinkins.
Question: Does the media do enough to help combat the AIDS epidemic?
Marjorie Hill: If I were going to give the media at large a grade on HIV coverage, it would be a D minus. And the only reason why is isn’t an “F” is because of World AIDS Day. The media has really left HIV and AIDS behind. In the early days, there was lots of coverage, whether it was the print media or news stories. And now, not so much. And so that has contributed to the general public assuming it's not that much of a problem, not that big a deal, not something that we have to worry about.
HIV is the most pressing public health issue of our time in this country. And we are not getting enough of the word out to the individuals who are at greatest risk or to John and Jane American, who also need to know that this is a public health concern.
Question: What do you imagine would be a more effective media strategy?
Marjorie Hill: In New York City, we’ve had several major anti-smoking campaigns. We’ve had significant anti-smoking legislation that prohibits where people can smoke and taxation on smoking. We’ve really focused on reducing the numbers of smokers. How many government-sponsored HIV prevention and education campaigns have there been in New York State and New York City? Zero.
You know, we have to do better. The New York City School System has a law that essentially says that sex ed, including HIV education, is a requirement, especially in high schools. But many high schools don’t do it because they don’t really have the appropriate staff, the teacher’s a little nervous about talking about sex. You know, the condoms in schools, which is also a requirement, are in the nurse’s office, locked away. And someone has to get a pass to go to the nurse on the day that the nurse is in. Good luck with that.
Recorded November 4, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller
Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler