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This advertisement, usually called the 'grim reaper' ad, commissioned by the National Advisory Committee on AIDS (NACAIDS) aired for three weeks in 1987. It is often touted as Australia's most influential advertisement. It occupies an important and controversial place in the history of the Australian response to HIV/AIDS.
The Grim Reaper Ad was successful at raising awareness around HIV/AIDS in the broader Australian community and not just the gay male and injecting drug user communities (where cases of HIV/AIDS were most prevalent).
The downside of the ad, and the reason it is controversial to many is that the ‘scare tactic’ approach further stigmatised gay men and injecting drug users. For many who saw the ad, the Grim Reaper was seen not as the effect of HIV/AIDS on the Australian community, but rather was identified as the gay and injecting drug using communities.
The Grim Reaper Ad is an important piece of Australian history, and it is recommended viewing for anyone interested in HIV in Australia. It is also a document well suited to discussions around stigma and the role of public health campaigns.