Main | Tuesday, May 20, 2008


In a similar vein to, it's actually spelled Pos Or Not, and it's from MTV and Kaiser.
Pos or Not, has a serious purpose (tasteful or not). The site,, introduced in late April, is an H.I.V. education effort disguised as a game. It shows photographs and brief biographies of men and women ages 21 to 30, and asks visitors to decide whether each is H.I.V. positive or negative. The message is that you can’t judge someone’s virus status by looks, occupation or taste in music.

The site is sponsored by MTV’s college network and the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit group that focuses on health policy. “We feel it’s another kind of activist tool to get out the word about H.I.V. protection,” said Stephen K. Friedman, the general manager of mtvU, the college and university offshoot of Viacom’s MTV network.

The first trial by mtvU of what Mr. Friedman calls “games for change” was Darfur Is Dying, an online simulation of a refugee camp that has logged more than 1.5 million plays since 2006. Other companies have sponsored games about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the immigration debate and the world’s water resources.

The network wants the word about its H.I.V. site and its message to be spread like a popular YouTube video. It enlisted celebrities like Wyclef Jean, a musician, and Rosario Dawson, an actress, to make promotions for the game, which are playing across MTV’s networks.

The game — if it can really be called that — was played about 5.1 million times by 400,000 people in its first three weeks, according to mtvU. Entertainment Weekly’s Web site suggested it might be the “most depressing use” of an Internet trend ever, but suggested that any H.I.V. outreach effort could be beneficial.
The lesson of Pos Or Not seems a bit simplistic, but is probably a necessary warning to the ill-informed. However, the unfortunate fact for pozzers a decade or more into it is that you often can tell. The meds do eventually take their toll for most. And while the average person might not notice some of the telltale signs, middle-aged gay men in particular seem finely attuned to note even the most subtle hints. Ten or more years ago, I remember standing in a San Francisco bar while an acquaintance accurately judged the status of a dozen men that I knew were positive but thought that they didn't show it. Now I'm probably as skilled as he was.

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