Frank S Kolma
OUT of Germany early this month, a shock therapy of sorts was concocted by two agencies to refocus the public attention on the menace of HIV and AIDS on the world.
In a television commercial, German dictator Adolf Hilter is depicted in a graphic sex scene. A couple undresses in a dimly-lit room and proceeds to have unrestricted, wanton sex.
Imagine a graphic film featuring a beautiful woman having sex with a well proportioned man. You cannot immediately see the face of the man over the writhing body of the actress.
After an uncomfortable moment of this, the camera pans to the face of the man and you come face to face with the weirdly grinning face of Adolf Hitler. On screen the words appear: “AIDS is a mass murderer. Protect yourself!”
The ad, made by Hamburg agency das comitee for the German Aids awareness group Regenbogen (Rainbow) e.v., was made to coincide with World AIDS Day which falls on Dec 1.
AIDS charities in Germany as well as in Britain, the United States and elsewhere are incensed and disgusted with the advertisement and several have called for it to be withdrawn.
Carsten Schatz from Deutsche Aids-Hilfe (German AIDS Help) is reported as saying: “It is one of the worst campaigns since the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic. This distasteful ad mocks all the victims of national socialism and compares HIV-positive people to mass murderers.”
The central council of Jews also hit out, calling the campaign insulting and ridiculing.
But the people behind the ad, an anti-AIDS organisation in Saarbrücken called “Regenbogen” or “Rainbow”, said: “It was in no way intended by us to represent AIDS sufferers or people who are HIV positive as mass murderers.
“We wanted to give the virus a face – and not those who are ill.”
Poster versions of the same ad also feature the faces of dictators Saddam Hussein and Joseph Stalin.
The ad, which is already circulating on the internet, hit TV screens in Germany last week.
One can see what message the advertisers are trying to get across: Aids, like the dictators, is a mass murderer.
At least 33 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, and at least 25 million have died from AIDS, according to the World Health Organisation.
That does make the virus the biggest mass murderer – beating Hitler, Stalin and Hussein combined.
The campaign was brought to life by Hamburg advertising agency ‘das comitee’. Dirk Silz from the company said: “We wanted to draw attention. Attention which can’t be gained anymore with radishes which wear condoms.”
The debates for and against this advertisement will go on for a while and then media attention will be caught elsewhere and this issue will recede from the public’s eyes and ears.
My attention was caught, not in this debate but elsewhere. I was drawn to the comment from the makers and promoters of the advertisement: “We wanted to give the virus a face – and not those who are ill.”
Does the virus indeed have a human face? Put another way, does it have a creator?
I have often thought about the inhuman, Frankenstein-type experiments that were carried out by Nazi scientist Joseph Mengele in Auschwitz concentration camp and elsewhere during the reign of Hitler.
His experiments with twins and other prisoners at the camp were grotesque and inhuman. He attempted to change the colour of the eyes of people and to see if something could be done about the negroid pigments and features of black people and other such macabre experiments in the Nazis’ torturous journey towards creating a super breed of six foot blue-eyed blond Aryans.
Mengele would operate on patients, so the reports go, without anesthetic to measure the threshold of pain or see to what extent he could lay open a chest and stomach cavity before the life force departed from the patient.
Had they the technology, Mengele and his boss Hitler would have introduced the HIV virus among the Jews with glee.
They would then have transferred the virus wholesale throughout the African continent and introduced it directly to black people and perhaps cover those of Asian and Indian and Arabic stock as well.
Has the Mengele and Hitler tradition lived on in some laboratories as countries and even races strive to outdo each other in the race towards arriving first with the ultimate weapon that would lead to the extinction of this race on Earth?
Is the HIV epidemic man-made, an attempt by some mad scientist in some obscure laboratory to get rid of a certain class or race of people – an experiment which has gone terribly wrong?
Has an attempt to wipe out the black people of Africa through the release of an experimental chimp loaded with the HIV virus in the bushes of Africa come back to claim and threaten all human life?
Mengele, an anthropologist and physician, lived on after World War II in South America in several countries and reportedly died there at the age of 67 in 1979.
Would he not have continued his life’s ambition in some jungle laboratory in Brazil or Paraguay or Argentina – countries he lived in?
Whatever the answers to these questions, I wonder whether the German producers of the advertisement had a bigger message behind the obvious one, in trying to put a face to AIDS?
Do they know something we do not?
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