As treatments for HIV+, individuals seem to improve almost daily. Some mixed couples (one HIV+ and one HIV-) are extending their families by giving getting pregnant and giving birth. Most of these planned pregnancies were laboratory fertilizations – until now.
Today, some doctors are indeed suggesting that, if you are receiving treatment and your viral load is low enough, it might be fine to start the process the old fashioned way — unprotected sex.
So why is a brand guy writing about this? Because I have been coaching everyone who will listen for the last 25 years that brand is not about truth. It is about belief. And belief does not have to be true to be powerful. It just needs to be believed.
So what is believed about HIV? It has taken 30 years for the public to accept the dangers of HIV and the virulence of the illness. As a brand, the HIV information community has tried to create a position of being responsible when having sex. And that you should only have unprotected sex with someone whose medical history is clearly known to you. Heck, I have had talks with my kids, telling them that an unwanted pregnancy is no longer the greatest risk when you have unprotected sex. I warned them that promiscuity could result in a death penalty
Now, it sounds as if the brand message is changing a little. Some medical professionals are counseling the mixed couples that the risks to infection and an infected baby might be infinitesimal. Maybe we should coin a new word to describe the risk infant-itesmial because of the life of the infant?
The power of any brand is in the discipline that the brand adopts in making its value proposition known. The more diffused the messages, the less important and powerful the brand.
I think we should be careful here as many of us rely on the luck of the draw in our life choices. Just look at how many people buy lottery tickets and visit casinos. They do it despite the overwhelming odds that they won’t win but will lose whatever money they invest.
So if we dilute the HIV brand message to include, in the message of protective avoidance, such messages as safe, low virus loads, low risk in unprotected sex of infection… well, I worry we are asking for trouble.
The cost of palliative HIV care is on all of us in society. We all pay the price for this brand having less clarity and more nuances.