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MTV is not an STD

The best defense against MTV is abstinence,” read posters in subways, buses, and phone booths in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. Part of the music television network’s spring publicity campaign, the ads seemed to be poking fun at safe-sex education. AIDS activists responded by firing off angry e-mails, rallying outside MTV’s New York studios, and slapping stickers that proclaimed “HIV is not a joke!” on hundreds of the offending posters. “These ads are dangerous to MTV’s demographic—young people who are most at risk for HIV,” says Katie Cumiskey, a Ph.D. candidate at City University of New York, and one of the protest’s main organizers. “By parodying STD education, they distance MTV viewers from the seriousness of these diseases.” But Christina Norman, a senior vice president at MTV, claims, “our company has led in STD-prevention messages. The idea that we would undo that work for the sake of buzz is off the mark.” Meanwhile, transit officials in Boston banned an ad from buses and subways that asked, “Can I get MTV from kissing?” Either authorities didn’t get the “joke,” or they realized it was potentially fatal.

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