The recent vandalism of at least one AIDS awareness ad featuring black models suggests that the campaign may be more controversial than was anticipated.
In some east-end bus shelters, someone's been scribbling, "Why are all the people in the AIDS ads black? White people get AIDS, too,' which has campaign organizers from the African and Caribbean Council on HIV/AIDS in Ontario (ACCHO) saying people are missing the point.
"The images talk about love, family, self-respect,' explains Winston Husbands, ACCHO co-chair and research and program development director at the AIDS Committee of Toronto . "We're not pointing fingers at individuals. That is not the kind of campaign we have designed.'
The alarming rate of HIV in the African and Caribbean communities - 13 per cent of the 24,251 people living with AIDS in Ontario, an 82 per cent increase since 1999- sparked this province-wide summer campaign.
Lydia Makoroka of Gays and Lesbians of African Descent (GLAD) suspects some are too sensitive; pulling out the race card, she says, is a knee-jerk reaction. The danger, Makoroka says, is that the vandal's message shows resentment about addressing this issue in the community.
But National Anti-Racism Council of Canada exec director Estella Muyinda warns that portraying only one race in those ads does lead to labelling.
"[Is ACCHO] going to be waiting for other groups to form their own campaigns [for each visible minority]?' she asks. "I think it's best to deal with AIDS collectively and use a multicultural framework to target the community directly.'
Husbands believes a universal campaign runs the risk of reaching no one. People, he says, must be able to relate to the image and message. The vandalism, he says, "tells us we still have a lot of work to do.'