Saturday, September 17, 2011

I am confused about signage

Often when looking at random signs and advertisements the first thing we see is a IMPORTANT STATISTIC.  It is designed to be disturbing and to show us that a problem is much bigger than we thought it was, thus creating a need for change.  This sign didn't quite accomplish that:

The thing I cannot fathom is what exactly is weird about this statistic.  People under 30 tend to have a lot of sex, with varied partners.  They also comprise a pretty large chunk of the 'old enough to have sex' age bracket.  Why would anybody be shocked that 1/3 of HIV diagnoses are in this age group?  Clearly finding ways to combat HIV is good, but how can this be considered a shocking sort of statistic?  Were there really a lot of people out there who figured that everyone getting HIV was over age 30?


  1. I'm actually surprised the number is that low.

  2. Yeah, it would seem like "2/3 new HIV infections are people over 30" would be a more important public health message. People around our age grew up with the idea that you use a condom, but people not much older than us didn't. They apparently need to have it driven home that they need to start using them.

  3. I neither think the number is high nor low; it seems likely that people under 30 make up about a third of the sexual encounters outside of monogamous relationships. If that were not more or less true, I'd be rather surprised.

    What I think would be a *far* more effective advertisement, which I haven't yet seen, is something along the lines of:

    Even with the best of modern medicine, the average lifespan of someone diagnosed with HIV is X years.

    Too many young gay men now consider HIV to be not a big deal, and infection to be something which is "bound to happen eventually". Yes, that sounds insane; but HIV exists in the unholy nexus of faux teenage invulnerability, drug use and the male sex drive.

    If I hadn't heard it said in earnest, with my own ears, from multiple sources I wouldn't believe it either.

  4. Yeah, there are lots of different statistics that this sign could have used - maybe something as simple as "Every year there are X new HIV infections diagnosed in Canada in people under 30." The chosen statistic is pretty mindboggling though.