Pfizer's Viagra + Meth = Rx for HIV, Says AIDS Healthcare Foundation in New Ad Campaign

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viagraLOS ANGELES, Dec. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the nation's largest provider of HIV/AIDS healthcare, education and prevention and direct provider of HIV/AIDS medical care to tens of thousands of AIDS patients in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia, launches a print advertising campaign this week calling on Pfizer, Inc., the world's largest pharmaceutical company, to end its marketing of its erectile dysfunction drug, Viagra, as a sexual enhancement drug, thereby encouraging its recreational use and fueling the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

The first wave of the Viagra + Meth = Rx for HIV Infection ad campaign begins in New York and Los Angeles this week with full-page ads in The Village Voice, The New York Blade and LA Weekly, with an ad appearing next week in L.A.'s Frontiers Magazine. The ads alert the public to the dangers of combining Viagra with crystal methamphetamines (an illegal drug, also know as crystal meth) and urges the pharmaceutical giant "to exercise responsibility by discontinuing marketing to men with mild erectile dysfunction, and by initiating an educational campaign on the dangers of Viagra and crystal meth, targeting men who have sex with men."

"Pfizer's direct to consumer marketing of Viagra as a drug to enhance sexual performance aimed at men who don't necessarily suffer from erectile dysfunction is irresponsible, especially in light of the drug's known use as part of a 'circuit party cocktail' that is fueling the spread of STDs and HIV," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "By marketing Viagra to men with 'mild' erectile dysfunction, for men with 'all degrees of ED, even if it only happens once in a while' or as a way to 'improve your sex life' -- as many of the ads state -- Pfizer is selling the drug as a way to enhance sexual experience, not as a treatment for an illness. We urge Pfizer to not only end this dangerous marketing tactic, but also to fund a national educational campaign on the dangers of Viagra and crystal meth in order to mitigate the negative impact its advertising continues to have."

Crystal meth, like many club drugs, is a type of "speed" that keeps the body feeling energetic and hypersexual. Because of the heightened sex drive and feelings of invincibility that crystal meth causes in users, the potential for unprotected sex, and HIV infection, increases dramatically. One of the side effects of crystal meth is that while it increases libido, it also causes impotence, causing many to use erectile dysfunction drugs, like Viagra, to obtain an erection.

Numerous studies linking the use of Viagra -- both independently and when used in combination with crystal meth -- to an increased risk for STDs and HIV infection, particularly among men who have sex with men, prompted AHF to create the Viagra + Meth = Rx for HIV Infection campaign. A study published in the May 26, 2005 edition of The American Journal of Medicine (Volume 118, No.6) called Sildenafil use, sexual risk behavior, and risk for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection (authored by Sean G. Swearingen, BA, Jeffrey D. Klausner, MD, MPH and funded by the STD Prevention and Control Services, San Francisco Department of Public Health) analyzed data from fourteen studies related to Viagra use (clinical name: sildenafil). The conclusion: "Most studies reported frequent sildenafil use in men who have sex with men, and several showed independent associations between use of the drug and sexual risk behavior, as well as an increased risk for STDs, including HIV infection."

Among the study's findings: a study of men who have sex with men in San Francisco showed that 36% of all Viagra users combined its use with other drugs including meth; five studies of men who have sex with men found an increase in unprotected anal sex with a partner of unknown or serodiscordant HIV-status among Viagra users, with users between twice as likely to almost six times as likely to engage in this risk behavior.

"As a physician, I am troubled by the increase in the use of drugs like Viagra in combination with illegal substances like meth and poppers among the patients I see," added Homayoon Khanlou, MD, Associate Director of Medicine, AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "The trend is particularly disturbing when you can consider how easy it is to obtain Viagra without a prescription and how many people are using the drug outside of medical supervision."

This latest campaign continues AIDS Healthcare Foundation's advocacy around the issue of Pfizer's direct-to-consumer advertising of Viagra. Earlier this year, AHF criticized Pfizer for running a holiday-themed print ad campaign that AHF believed promoted unsafe sex by encouraging the recreational use of Viagra on holidays such as New Year's Eve and the Super Bowl. The ads, seen in The Wall Street Journal and The L.A. Daily News, among other publications, depicted a handsome, forty-ish male grinning knowingly at the camera with taglines, such as "What are you doing New Year's Eve?" and "Be this Sunday's MVP." Pfizer continued this irresponsible advertising campaign despite having been forced by the U.S. Food and Drug administration to withdraw previous ads, which inferred that men could re-capture their youthful vigor and become a "wild thing" by taking Viagra.

For more information about the Viagra + Meth = Rx for HIV Infection campaign and AIDS Healthcare Foundation, please visit: www.aidshealth.org.

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This page contains a single entry by ID Admin published on December 12, 2006 3:02 PM.

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