German AIDS Campaign Uses Hitler in Misguided Effort

Shawn Syms

An AIDS campaign in Germany equates AIDS with mass-murder. But it is a health condition caused by an untreated viral infection and can be prevented through real information and education, not scare tactics.

This article originally appeared on

It’s two-thirty in the morning and the bedroom door bursts
open. To a thumping disco beat, a man and a woman enter, clearly in the throes
of lust. Within seconds, they’ve torn one another’s clothes off. Seen through
peculiar clouds of mist, they begin to have passionate, rough sex to a strange
soundtrack of eerie noises.


Their faces are obscured but guttural gasps and moans fill the room. As the
rutting hits a fever pitch, the deep-thrusting Romeo’s face is suddenly
revealed. You’ll probably recognize this sex machine. Is it Fabio? George
Clooney? Brad Pitt? Guess again.

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It’s Adolf Hitler. Complete with trademark kooky mustache, gasping for breath
with a demented look of orgasmic lust on his face. I’m not joking.

Why has Der Führer risen from the grave to pick up a woman at a nightclub in
2009 and taking her home to “do the nasty”? Because, to the people who came up
with this ludicrous AIDS TV commercial, unprotected sex that could lead to HIV
transmission is just like getting screwed by Hitler. Still scratching your
head? It’s because "AIDS is a mass murderer." And so is Hitler. Get

Wait, there’s more. The lurid advertisement, soon to grace TV and movie screens
across Germany, is accompanied by an equally tacky poster campaign. It seems
Adolf is not the only one getting some — the imagery depicts innocent German
women being defiled by Saddam Hussein and Joseph Stalin.

And in case the history angle starts to feel tired, there is also a rap song,
in German, "Aids ist ein Massenmörder" by Big Danny. I have to admit
that it’s pretty catchy. The music video is shot — of course — in a cemetery.
There’s a banner ad for websites featuring a conveyor belt of body bags. The
"AIDS is a mass murderer" campaign is even on Twitter (@AIDSMASSMURDER).

"The campaign is designed to shake people up," according to its
creators, AIDS-awareness group Regenbogen e.V. and ad agency Das Comitee, who
prepared the materials for World AIDS Day (December 1) but have unleashed them
on the public a bit early. Das Comitee’s creative director Hans Weishäupl told
the (UK) Telegraph that the thinking was that the ad’s shock value could help
prevent new infections.

But scare tactics and misrepresentations of people with HIV
will not help anyone protect themselves, according to German journalist, Rainer
Hoermann. "Fear is never a good advisor," he says, noting that the
campaign suggests those with HIV/AIDS are "oversexed mass murderers."
Describing the Hitler debacle as "a step backward," he recommends
another German HIV campaign, "I Know What I Do." This site (
focuses on personal responsibility and normalizes HIV, allowing people to talk
realistically about their fears and their health, he says.

This campaign is a joke. There is nothing shocking or cutting edge about it.
Its horny Hitler is hilarious. The fact that he, Hussein and Stalin are all
deceased adds a certain necrophiliac irony to the whole cartoonish exercise.
For a campaign with a digital component, they seem to have forgotten the
lessons of Godwin’s Law, which points out the absurdity of making online
comparisons to Adolf Hitler. If anything is disturbing, it’s the fact that the
"logic" behind this campaign makes sense to anyone — especially an
AIDS-awareness group like Regenbogen, whose members include people with HIV.

"AIDS" is not a "mass murderer." It’s a health condition
caused by an untreated viral infection. HIV is the virus that can lead to AIDS,
usually after many years and in the absence of medication. HIV is a significant
medical condition, and there are countless reasons why anyone who doesn’t have
that virus should avoid getting it, and that anyone who does have it should
avoid passing it on to anyone else.

But it doesn’t help anyone to confuse HIV and AIDS with one another, or to
exaggerate the impact of HIV by inextricably linking it to death. Dr Joseph
McGowan of North Shore University Hospital recently counseled a parent about
her 10-year-old son’s HIV infection on the medical website
"If he is monitored carefully there is no reason your son ever has to
progress to AIDS. He can expect to live a very long life." This is the
current reality of HIV for most people in developed countries. The constant,
hyper-emotional assertion that HIV equals guaranteed death ought to be calmly
challenged every time it rears its insistent head. Neither is it

And since "AIDS" is not a person, let alone a "murderer,"
who are we really talking about here? Of course, we are talking about people
who have HIV in their bodies. The Regenbogen campaign isn’t actually about AIDS
itself at all. It’s about the risks of (presumably unprotected) sex with regard
to HIV transmission, arguing that passing on HIV is akin to Nazism, and
suggesting that the other person engaging in sex has no role other than that of
victim. Notably, the mass murderers in the campaign are all men and their
victims are all women. Meanwhile, the most recent high-profile
HIV-criminalization case in Germany targeted a woman, Nadja Benaissa of the pop
group No Angels.

Indeed, the women depicted in the Regenbogen advertisements
are basically treated as objects, as vessels of infection. As sexual educator
Leanne Cusitar points out, “Women are not helpless. Women have agency over
their bodies. They may struggle with that like anyone does, especially given
power inequities with men—but that doesn’t mean that agency ceases to exist.”
Of course it was easy for this campaign’s creators to rely on standard Western
cultural tropes about female sexuality. I’d love to see a mainstream AIDS
campaign that could embody a vision of women’s sexuality that eschews

And did the campaigners not think twice about wrongly comparing human sexual
behaviour to the Holocaust, and inappropriately demonizing people with HIV in
the process? The insistence on seeing HIV transmission as villainy obscures the
most stubborn fact about the epidemic — far from being the realm of malevolent
or sociopathic people, HIV is transmitted through behaviors that are otherwise
completely natural and normal, such as penetrative intercourse — or behaviors
that may often be hard to control rather than "intentional," such as
needle sharing in the context of addiction. We already know that those most
infectious with HIV usually don’t know they have it, and that most women and
men with diagnosed HIV take great pains to prevent further transmission.

Of course, Regenbogen and Das Comitee don’t have a monopoly on hyperbolic
exaggeration about the impact of HIV, or on promoting the idea that HIV
transmission is the work of bad people. In Canada, the legal system adopted the
surreal notion that when HIV transmission occurs, this means one person is
attempting to murder another (Canada was the first legal jurisdiction to use
the charge of “murder” in relation to HIV transmission, in the case against
Johnson Aziga).

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU),
roughly half of U.S. states have HIV-specific laws criminalizing sexual contact
by people with HIV. Internationally, the Global Network of People Living with
HIV (GNP+) is tracking such laws around the world, and the picture is not
pretty. As GNP+ points out, these laws are based in an exaggerated sense of the
risk and harm of unprotected sex, and do little to prevent transmission.

The "AIDS is a mass murderer" Hitler campaign
isn’t the first time the phrase "mass murder" has been applied to the
AIDS pandemic. In 2003, Stephen Lewis, then the UN’s special envoy for HIV/AIDS
in Africa, described the crisis as "mass murder by complacency." He
wasn’t talking about people’s sex lives though. He was talking about treatment
access. Medical advances mean that HIV is no longer necessarily fatal — if you
have access to drugs. For so many people around the world, that still isn’t the
case, and that is something that’s truly shocking and worthy of our anger and
righteous indignation.

Let’s stop clouding the issues with scare tactics and Swastikas — and focus on
what we really need: realistic sex education targeting specific at-risk
communities, new prevention tools beyond condoms to help people play safe, and
access to medical treatment so all people with HIV can be as uninfectious as
possible and live long, healthy lives.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Clinton Criticizes Trump’s Child-Care Proposal in Economic Speech

Ally Boguhn

Hillary Clinton may be wooing Republicans alienated by Trump, but she's also laying out economic policies that could shore up her progressive base. Meanwhile, Trump's comments about "Second Amendment people" stopping Hillary Clinton judicial appointments were roundly condemned.

Hillary Clinton may be courting Republicans, but that didn’t stop her from embracing progressive economic policies and criticizing her opponent’s child-care plan this week, and Donald Trump suggested there could be a way for “Second Amendment people” to deal with his rival’s judicial appointments should she be elected.

Clinton Blasts Trump’s Child-Care Proposal, Embraces Progressive Policies in Economic Speech

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton took aim at Republican nominee Donald Trump’s recently announced proposal to make the average cost of child care fully deductible during her own economic address Thursday in Michigan.

“We know that women are now the sole or primary breadwinner in a growing number of families. We know more Americans are cobbling together part-time work, or striking out on their own. So we have to make it easier to be good workers, good parents, and good caregivers, all at the same time,” Clinton said before pivoting to address her opponent’s plan. “That’s why I’ve set out a bold vision to make quality, affordable child care available to all Americans and limit costs to 10 percent of family income.”

“Previously, [Trump] dismissed concerns about child care,” Clinton told the crowd. “He said it was, quote, ‘not an expensive thing’ because you just need some blocks and some swings.”

“He would give wealthy families 30 or 40 cents on the dollar for their nannies, and little or nothing for millions of hard-working families trying to afford child care so they can get to work and keep the job,” she continued.

Trump’s child-care proposal has been criticized by economic and family policy experts who say his proposed deductions for the “average” cost of child care would do little to help low- and middle-wage earners and would instead advantage the wealthy. Though the details of his plan are slim, the Republican nominee’s campaign has claimed it would also allow “parents to exclude child care expenses from half of their payroll taxes.” Experts, however, told CNN doing so would be difficult to administer.

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Clinton provided a different way to cut family child-care costs: “I think instead we should expand the Child Tax Credit to provide real relief to tens of millions of working families struggling with the cost of raising children,” Clinton said in Michigan on Thursday. “The same families [Donald Trump’s] plan ignores.”

Clinton also voiced her support for several progressive policy positions in her speech, despite a recent push to feature notable Republicans who now support her in her campaign.

“In her first major economic address since her campaign began actively courting the Republicans turned off by Donald Trump, Clinton made no major pivot to the ideological center,” noted NBC News in a Thursday report on the speech. “Instead, Clinton reiterated several of the policy positions she adopted during her primary fight against Bernie Sanders, even while making a direct appeal to Independent voters and Republicans.”

Those positions included raising the minimum wage, opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, advocating for equal pay and paid family leave, and supporting a public health insurance option.

“Today’s speech shows that getting some Republicans to say Donald Trump is unfit to be president is not mutually exclusive with Clinton running on bold progressives ideas like debt-free college, expanding Social Security benefits and Wall Street reform,” said Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in a statement to NBC.

Donald Trump: Could “Second Amendment People” Stop Clinton Supreme Court Picks?

Donald Trump suggested that those who support gun ownership rights may be able to stop Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton from appointing judges to the Supreme Court should she be elected.

“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment,” Trump told a crowd of supporters during a Tuesday rally in Wilmington, North Carolina. “By the way … if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although, the Second Amendment people—maybe there is. I don’t know.” 

Trump campaign spokesperson Jason Miller later criticized the “dishonest media” for reporting on Trump’s comments and glossed over any criticism of the candidate in a statement posted to the campaign’s website Tuesday. “It’s called the power of unification―Second Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power,” said Miller. “And this year, they will be voting in record numbers, and it won’t be for Hillary Clinton, it will be for Donald Trump.”

“This is simple—what Trump is saying is dangerous,” said Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, in a statement responding to the Republican nominee’s suggestion. “A person seeking to be the President of the United States should not suggest violence in any way.”

Gun safety advocates and liberal groups swiftly denounced Trump’s comments as violent and inappropriate for a presidential candidate.

“This is just the latest example of Trump inciting violence at his rallies—and one that belies his fundamental misunderstanding of the Second Amendment, which should be an affront to the vast majority of responsible gun owners in America,” Erika Soto Lamb, chief communications officer of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a Tuesday statement. “He’s unfit to be president.”

Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, also said in a Tuesday press release, “There has been no shortage of inexcusable rhetoric from Trump, but suggesting gun violence is truly abhorrent. There is no place in our public discourse for this kind of statement, especially from someone seeking the nation’s highest office.”

Trump’s comments engaged in something called “stochastic terrorism,” according to David Cohen, an associate professor at the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law, in a Tuesday article for Rolling Stone.

“Stochastic terrorism, as described by a blogger who summarized the concept several years back, means using language and other forms of communication ‘to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable,’” said Cohen. “Stated differently: Trump puts out the dog whistle knowing that some dog will hear it, even though he doesn’t know which dog.”

“Those of us who work against anti-abortion violence unfortunately know all about this,” Cohen continued, pointing to an article from Valerie Tarico in which she describes a similar pattern of violent rhetoric leading up to the murders that took place at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood.

What Else We’re Reading

Though Trump has previously claimed he offered on-site child-care services for his employees, there is no record of such a program, the Associated Press reports.

History News Network attempted to track down how many historians support Trump. They only found five (besides Newt Gingrich).

In an article questioning whether Trump will energize the Latino voting bloc, Sergio Bustos and Nicholas Riccardi reported for the Associated Press: “Many Hispanic families have an immense personal stake in what happens on Election Day, but despite population numbers that should mean political power, Hispanics often can’t vote, aren’t registered to vote, or simply choose to sit out.”

A pair of physicians made the case for why Gov. Mike Pence “is radically anti-public health,” citing the Republican vice presidential candidate’s “policies on tobacco, women’s health and LGBTQ rights” in a blog for the Huffington Post.

Ivanka Trump has tried to act as a champion for woman-friendly workplace policies, but “the company that designs her clothing line, including the $157 sheath she wore during her [Republican National Convention] speech, does not offer workers a single day of paid maternity leave,” reported the Washington Post.

The chair of the American Nazi Party claimed a Trump presidency would be “a real opportunity” for white nationalists.

NPR analyzed how Clinton and Trump might take on the issue of campus sexual assault.

Rewire’s own editor in chief, Jodi Jacobson, explained in a Thursday commentary how Trump’s comments are just the latest example of Republicans’ use of violent rhetoric and intimidation in order to gain power.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Trump Selects Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to Join His Ticket

Ally Boguhn

And in other news, Donald Trump suggested that he can relate to Black people who are discriminated against because the system has been rigged against him, too. But he stopped short of saying he understood the experiences of Black Americans.

Donald Trump announced this week that he had selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) to join him as his vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket, and earlier in the week, the presumptive presidential nominee suggested to Fox News that he could relate to Black Americans because the “system is rigged” against him too.

Pence Selected to Join the GOP Ticket 

After weeks of speculation over who the presumptive nominee would chose as his vice presidential candidate, Trump announced Friday that he had chosen Pence.

“I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate,” Trump tweeted Friday morning, adding that he will make the official announcement on Saturday during a news conference.

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The presumptive Republican nominee was originally slated to host the news conference Friday, but postponed in response to Thursday’s terrorist attack in Nice, France. As late as Thursday evening, Trump told Fox News that he had not made a final decision on who would join his ticket—even as news reports came in that he had already selected Pence for the position.

As Rewire Editor in Chief Jodi Jacobson explained in a Thursday commentary, Pence “has problems with the truth, isn’t inclined to rely on facts, has little to no concern for the health and welfare of the poorest, doesn’t understand health care, and bases his decisions on discriminatory beliefs.” Jacobson further explained: 

He has, for example, eagerly signed laws aimed at criminalizing abortion, forcing women to undergo unnecessary ultrasounds, banning coverage for abortion care in private insurance plans, and forcing doctors performing abortions to seek admitting privileges at hospitals (a requirement the Supreme Court recently struck down as medically unnecessary in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case). He signed a ‘religious freedom’ law that would have legalized discrimination against LGBTQ persons and only ‘amended’ it after a national outcry. Because Pence has guided public health policy based on his ‘conservative values,’ rather than on evidence and best practices in public health, he presided over one of the fastest growing outbreaks of HIV infection in rural areas in the United States.

Trump Suggests He Can Relate to Black Americans Because “Even Against Me the System Is Rigged”

Trump suggested to Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that he could relate to the discrimination Black Americans face since “the system [was] rigged” against him when he began his run for president.

When asked during a Tuesday appearance on The O’Reilly Factor what he would say to those “who believe that the system is biased against them” because they are Black, Trump leaped to highlight what he deemed to be discrimination he had faced. “I have been saying even against me the system is rigged. When I ran … for president, I mean, I could see what was going on with the system, and the system is rigged,” Trump responded.

“What I’m saying [is] they are not necessarily wrong,” Trump went on. “I mean, there are certain people where unfortunately that comes into play,” he said, concluding that he could “relate it, really, very much to myself.”

When O’Reilly asked Trump to specify whether he truly understood the “experience” of Black Americans, Trump said that he couldn’t, necessarily. 

“I would like to say yes, but you really can’t unless you are African American,” said Trump. “I would like to say yes, however.”

Trump has consistently struggled to connect with Black voters during his 2016 presidential run. Despite claiming to have “a great relationship with the blacks,” the presumptive Republican nominee has come under intense scrutiny for using inflammatory rhetoric and initially failing to condemn white supremacists who offered him their support.

According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released Tuesday, Trump is polling at 0 percent among Black voters in the key swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

What Else We’re Reading

Newt Gingrich, who was one of Trump’s finalists for the vice presidential spot, reacted to the terrorist attack in Nice, France, by calling for all those in the United States with a “Muslim background” to face a test to determine if they “believe in sharia” and should be deported.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton threw her support behind a public option for health insurance.

Bloomberg Politics’ Greg Stohr reports that election-related cases—including those involving voter-identification requirements and Ohio’s early-voting period—are moving toward the Supreme Court, where they are “risking deadlocks.”

According to a Reuters review of GOP-backed changes to North Carolina’s voting rules, “as many as 29,000 votes might not be counted in this year’s Nov. 8 presidential election if a federal appeals court upholds” a 2013 law that bans voters from casting ballots outside of their assigned precincts.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the election goals and strategies of anti-choice organization Susan B. Anthony List, explaining that the organization plans to work to ensure that policy goals such as a 20-week abortion ban and defunding Planned Parenthood “are the key issues that it will use to rally support for its congressional and White House candidates this fall, following recent setbacks in the courts.”

Multiple “dark money” nonprofits once connected to the Koch brothers’ network were fined by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) this week after hiding funding sources for 2010 political ads. They will now be required to “amend past FEC filings to disclose who provided their funding,” according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

Politico’s Matthew Nussbaum and Ben Weyl explain how Trump’s budget would end up “making the deficit great again.”

“The 2016 Democratic platform has the strongest language on voting rights in the party’s history,” according to the Nation’s Ari Berman.


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