New York City's Bogus Public Health Posters

“ZIKA CAN BE SPREAD THROUGH VAGINAL, ANAL, OR ORAL SEX. USE A CONDOM TO PREVENT TRANSMISSION.”

This message has been posted as a public service message in the New York City subways, authorized by the mayor’s office. The poster continues: “IT TAKES ONE MOSQUITO BITE TO CONTRACT THE VIRUS.” Thus, there is a graphic announcement about contracting Zika via indulging the pleasure drive, or by the unglamorous route of a single insect bite. The latter is called a “boring contagion.” These risks are publicized for those who, according to the poster, visit Mexico, Central or South American, or the Caribbean.

Not only can the traveler be infected, but if the traveler is pregnant or becomes pregnant during such a trip or by having one of three types of sexual contact with persons who are from those countries or have traveled to those countries and returned to the USA, but this detailed poster also warns if “IF PREGNANT OR TRYING, ZIKA CAN CAUSE BIRTH DEFECTS INCLUDING BRAIN DAMAGE.”

This is the new politically correct, diversity type of public health message. It does not forbid travel to or from the regions and countries where the infection is spread. It does not boldly state to avoid sexual activities when visiting the affected countries, or sexual activities with persons from the affected countries (of whom there are many in New York City). Instead of immigration restriction and travel restrictions, the entire onus is put upon the ubiquitous condom. Instead of a protected public (as in “public health”) we have words of encouragement calling for the protected penis. Of course, this in no way protects against the mosquito bite, unless of course the mosquito attempts to bite the protected male appendage.

Another public health message is also glued to the walls of many subway stations. This has a photo of a bearded male face, with longish hair (a typical grungy look popular since the 1960s) grinning and happy about his new perspective on being HIV positive. It states, “SET YOUR NEW HIV GOAL. AN UNDETECTABLE VIRAL LOAD IS A GOOD START. TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR AND SET YOUR NEW GOAL. FEELING MORE CONFIDENT ABOUT YOUR HIV TREATMENT DECISIONS.” This advice is to the right of the smiling face. Beneath the smiling face is a neat little formula: “ UNDETECTABLE + CONFIDENT = MY NEW GOAL.” This is the next step in public service announcements about HIV. Only a few years ago, the subways were running ads with Magic Johnson’s grinning face announcing that he was “partnering with his doctor” to get the right medications and the right dosage for treating his HIV positive diagnosis. Now the ad has morphed from portraying a celebrity to portraying an ordinary, grungy male (the new version of “the boy next door”). The sick man is no longer partnering with his doctor, but is “talking” to his doctor indicating that his treatment is now more based on relationship and friendship. A personal process has replaced a disease management, technical project.

An undetectable viral load means “fewer than 50 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood (<50 copies/mL). Reaching an undetectable viral load is a key goal of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART).” Why is this reduction significant? The answer is “Studies have shown that HIV-positive people who use ART can reduce the likelihood of transmitting the virus to their HIV-negative partners by as much as 92–96%. More people on effective treatment and with their virus in check means more HIV infections are prevented -- an approach called “treatment as prevention.” However, looked at more closely, we find that even this 92-96% “focused almost exclusively on heterosexual couples. More research is needed to assess whether suppressed viral load has identical benefits for gay and bisexual men and people who inject drugs.”

Thus, the public service announcement that causes the sick person to smile is another politically-correct evasion. Instead of presenting the public with a warning that not having sexual relations with gay and/or bisexual men, and not injecting drugs are behaviors that can assure non-transmission, the fallback position of talking with one’s wise and informed physician is driving the public conversation.

Besides the above two compromised public health messages, a third one has appeared recently. The above health problems are the result of a seriously debilitating, even deadly, virus, but for other problems, the mayor’s office directs the afflicted citizen to NYC WELL. A sincere looking and pretty lady announces on the poster “NYC WELL HELPS ME BE MYSELF…

 AS I FACE MY ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, ALCOHOLISM OR ADDICTION.” Counsellors are on duty to help you in any of the four above areas of dysfunction. The poster provides a toll-free number to call, a URL for internet connection, and a number to text a counsellor.

There are some serious implications in the NYC WELL message. It is a politically-correct subterfuge trying to present an image that government can bring the individual peace of mind, hope, love, self-control, and freedom from obsessions and addictions. It is an image of government-as-nurturing-parent/therapist carried to another step. It is a false path for desperate individuals based on a superficial understanding of the very values it espouses.

New York City is trying to cope with the ever-growing numbers of those who cannot or will not cope with life’s stresses and demands. The website of NYC WELL suggests the power of listening, talking, breathing exercises, and body relaxation to relieve those who are suffering. But can these techniques provide anything more than momentary relief to a distracted or lonely individual? Can these techniques and self-help strategies offset dysfunctional families, violence in the streets and in one’s own psyche, hatred for the U.S.A., sinister corruption everywhere, crowded living, excessive self-interest, fear of tomorrow, lack of literacy and rational thinking, obsessions and paranoia, escapism, delusions of grandeur, lustful manias, extreme and unremitting loneliness, breakups of friendships and even more intimate relationships, parent-child hostilities, jealousies, envies, hates, phobias, etc. Look at any psychiatric textbook to see the real range and depth of the mental health issues.  

Instead of starting a government centered program, the government should support the expansion of other proven programs that are out there. But beyond any program, there needs to be a renaissance in understanding of the moral and spiritual dimensions of many of the mental health and addiction problems individuals face. Without a strong belief in faith, family, and freedom, the individual and society begins to disintegrate. There are not enough counsellors in the universe to counterbalance the disintegration of the individual in a society where Judeo-Christian values are disparaged, faith in God is disparaged, personal responsibility is disparaged, obedience to parents and teachers is replaced by more permissive philosophies of life, and where personal stability eludes more and more people.

In more than two decades teaching in public high schools in New York City, this writer did not hear one school administrator or any speaker in any student meeting use the words happiness or love. Nor was the term “family of man” used, and even in teacher professional development words like creativity, knowledge, and responsibility were words of the past. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are typically not celebrated. Nor is Memorial Day. Prayer has been taken out of the schools. Even a moment of silent prayer is not acceptable.  In the politically correct environment where posters like the Zika and HIV posters are stupid and evasive, you can expect mental health breakdowns. NYC WELL is more part of the cover-up than part of the solution. We need to get our priorities in order, not to depend on government for bogus "quick fixes," and to face the facts when dealing with public health issues.

“ZIKA CAN BE SPREAD THROUGH VAGINAL, ANAL, OR ORAL SEX. USE A CONDOM TO PREVENT TRANSMISSION.”

This message has been posted as a public service message in the New York City subways, authorized by the mayor’s office. The poster continues: “IT TAKES ONE MOSQUITO BITE TO CONTRACT THE VIRUS.” Thus, there is a graphic announcement about contracting Zika via indulging the pleasure drive, or by the unglamorous route of a single insect bite. The latter is called a “boring contagion.” These risks are publicized for those who, according to the poster, visit Mexico, Central or South American, or the Caribbean.

Not only can the traveler be infected, but if the traveler is pregnant or becomes pregnant during such a trip or by having one of three types of sexual contact with persons who are from those countries or have traveled to those countries and returned to the USA, but this detailed poster also warns if “IF PREGNANT OR TRYING, ZIKA CAN CAUSE BIRTH DEFECTS INCLUDING BRAIN DAMAGE.”

This is the new politically correct, diversity type of public health message. It does not forbid travel to or from the regions and countries where the infection is spread. It does not boldly state to avoid sexual activities when visiting the affected countries, or sexual activities with persons from the affected countries (of whom there are many in New York City). Instead of immigration restriction and travel restrictions, the entire onus is put upon the ubiquitous condom. Instead of a protected public (as in “public health”) we have words of encouragement calling for the protected penis. Of course, this in no way protects against the mosquito bite, unless of course the mosquito attempts to bite the protected male appendage.

Another public health message is also glued to the walls of many subway stations. This has a photo of a bearded male face, with longish hair (a typical grungy look popular since the 1960s) grinning and happy about his new perspective on being HIV positive. It states, “SET YOUR NEW HIV GOAL. AN UNDETECTABLE VIRAL LOAD IS A GOOD START. TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR AND SET YOUR NEW GOAL. FEELING MORE CONFIDENT ABOUT YOUR HIV TREATMENT DECISIONS.” This advice is to the right of the smiling face. Beneath the smiling face is a neat little formula: “ UNDETECTABLE + CONFIDENT = MY NEW GOAL.” This is the next step in public service announcements about HIV. Only a few years ago, the subways were running ads with Magic Johnson’s grinning face announcing that he was “partnering with his doctor” to get the right medications and the right dosage for treating his HIV positive diagnosis. Now the ad has morphed from portraying a celebrity to portraying an ordinary, grungy male (the new version of “the boy next door”). The sick man is no longer partnering with his doctor, but is “talking” to his doctor indicating that his treatment is now more based on relationship and friendship. A personal process has replaced a disease management, technical project.

An undetectable viral load means “fewer than 50 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood (<50 copies/mL). Reaching an undetectable viral load is a key goal of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART).” Why is this reduction significant? The answer is “Studies have shown that HIV-positive people who use ART can reduce the likelihood of transmitting the virus to their HIV-negative partners by as much as 92–96%. More people on effective treatment and with their virus in check means more HIV infections are prevented -- an approach called “treatment as prevention.” However, looked at more closely, we find that even this 92-96% “focused almost exclusively on heterosexual couples. More research is needed to assess whether suppressed viral load has identical benefits for gay and bisexual men and people who inject drugs.”

Thus, the public service announcement that causes the sick person to smile is another politically-correct evasion. Instead of presenting the public with a warning that not having sexual relations with gay and/or bisexual men, and not injecting drugs are behaviors that can assure non-transmission, the fallback position of talking with one’s wise and informed physician is driving the public conversation.

Besides the above two compromised public health messages, a third one has appeared recently. The above health problems are the result of a seriously debilitating, even deadly, virus, but for other problems, the mayor’s office directs the afflicted citizen to NYC WELL. A sincere looking and pretty lady announces on the poster “NYC WELL HELPS ME BE MYSELF…

 AS I FACE MY ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, ALCOHOLISM OR ADDICTION.” Counsellors are on duty to help you in any of the four above areas of dysfunction. The poster provides a toll-free number to call, a URL for internet connection, and a number to text a counsellor.

There are some serious implications in the NYC WELL message. It is a politically-correct subterfuge trying to present an image that government can bring the individual peace of mind, hope, love, self-control, and freedom from obsessions and addictions. It is an image of government-as-nurturing-parent/therapist carried to another step. It is a false path for desperate individuals based on a superficial understanding of the very values it espouses.

New York City is trying to cope with the ever-growing numbers of those who cannot or will not cope with life’s stresses and demands. The website of NYC WELL suggests the power of listening, talking, breathing exercises, and body relaxation to relieve those who are suffering. But can these techniques provide anything more than momentary relief to a distracted or lonely individual? Can these techniques and self-help strategies offset dysfunctional families, violence in the streets and in one’s own psyche, hatred for the U.S.A., sinister corruption everywhere, crowded living, excessive self-interest, fear of tomorrow, lack of literacy and rational thinking, obsessions and paranoia, escapism, delusions of grandeur, lustful manias, extreme and unremitting loneliness, breakups of friendships and even more intimate relationships, parent-child hostilities, jealousies, envies, hates, phobias, etc. Look at any psychiatric textbook to see the real range and depth of the mental health issues.  

Instead of starting a government centered program, the government should support the expansion of other proven programs that are out there. But beyond any program, there needs to be a renaissance in understanding of the moral and spiritual dimensions of many of the mental health and addiction problems individuals face. Without a strong belief in faith, family, and freedom, the individual and society begins to disintegrate. There are not enough counsellors in the universe to counterbalance the disintegration of the individual in a society where Judeo-Christian values are disparaged, faith in God is disparaged, personal responsibility is disparaged, obedience to parents and teachers is replaced by more permissive philosophies of life, and where personal stability eludes more and more people.

In more than two decades teaching in public high schools in New York City, this writer did not hear one school administrator or any speaker in any student meeting use the words happiness or love. Nor was the term “family of man” used, and even in teacher professional development words like creativity, knowledge, and responsibility were words of the past. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are typically not celebrated. Nor is Memorial Day. Prayer has been taken out of the schools. Even a moment of silent prayer is not acceptable.  In the politically correct environment where posters like the Zika and HIV posters are stupid and evasive, you can expect mental health breakdowns. NYC WELL is more part of the cover-up than part of the solution. We need to get our priorities in order, not to depend on government for bogus "quick fixes," and to face the facts when dealing with public health issues.

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