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Hot or not? No, Pos or not!
May 19, 2008 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Think you can guess HIV status just by looking? Via NYTimes article
posted by ThePinkSuperhero (62 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Without looking at the linked site, my answer to the question is no.
posted by Caduceus at 9:17 AM on May 19, 2008


I went 9/10 not reading the text. Shouldn't they tell you how well people do at this? I guess that it would defeat the purpose if people really could tell just by looking.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:18 AM on May 19, 2008


Huh, after a few rounds of playing, users are encouraged to enter their zip code to find where HIV testing centers. I entered several NYC zip codes (my home in Queens, my office in Manhattan), and no local testing centers were shown. I find it hard to believe there are no HIV testing centers in all of NYC?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:19 AM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


From the NYT link: "The message is that you can’t judge someone’s virus status by looks, occupation or taste in music."

Perhaps I'm staggeringly out of touch with the young folk these days, but I have to ask: are there really so many people who think that you can tell someone's HIV status by their taste in music that this campaign is necessary?
posted by googly at 9:20 AM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Several of those people, in my biased and subjective view, "looked gay." Being a sensitive and aware modern-type fellow, I made a conscious decision to defy stereotypes, and I clicked the button to guess that they were HIV-negative. They all turned out to be positive. What went wrong here?
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:20 AM on May 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


Being a sensitive and aware modern-type fellow, I made a conscious decision to defy stereotypes, and I clicked the button to guess that they were HIV-negative.

What a disgustingly homophobic observation.

Kidding! That's just how it worked out in your random batch. Mine was exactly the opposite.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 9:25 AM on May 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I guessed all of the ones I was given correctly--not randomly guessing but actually making a conscious judgment about whether someone "looked" like they'd be likely to be HIV+ (something I'd normally never do in day-to-day life).

Frankly, I'm creeped out.
posted by elfgirl at 9:31 AM on May 19, 2008


Are there still that many people who believe that you can tell by looking at someone if they're positive or not? That, in and of itself, is creepy and wrong.
posted by Gular at 9:33 AM on May 19, 2008


I always guess HIV positive, just to be sure.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:35 AM on May 19, 2008 [6 favorites]


About the only picture I would say "pos", with any confidence, would be Goatse.cx , but even then, who the hell knows (or wants to know).
posted by stbalbach at 9:37 AM on May 19, 2008


How fucking horrible. Why is it not surprising it is a viral (hurf hurf) site from MTV. Because MTV is also horrible.

Actually, MTV and HIV have a lot in common. They prey on ignorance to spread. They infect otherwise healthy people. They are impossible to get rid of.
posted by ninjew at 9:46 AM on May 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


If it were obvious visibly, I think there'd be less cases.
posted by juiceCake at 9:47 AM on May 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I can also tell if you are a time traveler by looking at you.

(Hint: It's in the eyes!)
posted by grubi at 9:55 AM on May 19, 2008


This was the most disturbing game I had ever played.
posted by johannahdeschanel at 9:55 AM on May 19, 2008


Actually, MTV and HIV have a lot in common. They prey on ignorance to spread. They infect otherwise healthy people. They are impossible to get rid of.

However, in the case of MTV, the condoms, they do nothing!
posted by jonmc at 9:56 AM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


If they'd do this for the lactose intolerant they'd be on to something.
posted by Floydd at 9:57 AM on May 19, 2008


It all becomes a fair bit easier when the side effects from the combination therapy starts to kick in.

When you start noticing fat loss around the face, the arms and legs and the arse, and fat accumulation on the abdomen and between the shoulderblades, you might want to be extra specially sure that you're using a condom.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:00 AM on May 19, 2008


*SPOILER WARNING*

The answers are:
Yes
No
No
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
etc.

/questionable humour

I would disagree that this is an entirely pointless exercise in public education. Many people may understand HIV infection and how it manifests, but there is still a good deal of ignorance, willful and otherwise about the subject.
posted by asok at 10:01 AM on May 19, 2008


Weird -- I got 10 out of 10 correct. NOT the intended outcome, I'm sure.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:03 AM on May 19, 2008


I scored 100%!
posted by eperker at 10:03 AM on May 19, 2008


are there really so many people who think that you can tell someone's HIV status by their taste in music that this campaign is necessary?

Terrifyingly, and sadly, enough - yes, yes there are.
posted by rtha at 10:09 AM on May 19, 2008


I guessed all of them right, which makes me think that I defeated the purpose of the game.
posted by riane at 10:10 AM on May 19, 2008


You know, I DIDN'T think I could tell just by looking, but then I played this game....
posted by rooftop secrets at 10:10 AM on May 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


Keep in mind too that the target audience is not Metafilter's Own Media Savvy and Well-Informed readers, but young people, many of whom have been subjected to inaccurate abstinence-only "education." Or they slept through health class. Or, like many 17-year-olds, they can't imagine their own mortality or judge their own risk factors.

Want a really scary look at how (some) kids think about sex these days?
My boyfriend and I are being abstinent until marriage. We only had sex once, we aren't doing it again and want to be renewed as being abstinent, and we are doing that with my cousin and her bf, because they quit after doing it for months, too.

There was only one incident that happened, that scares us both to death. I would never let him in my vagina because that would just ruin our relationship. We had anal sex....
posted by rtha at 10:16 AM on May 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


I would disagree that this is an entirely pointless exercise in public education.

Agreed- anything that gets people thinking about being tested for HIV couldn't be a bad thing, considering the large numbers of those infected with HIV that don't know it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:17 AM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is a horrible, horrible game. By my estimate, about 90% of the people who either "look gay" or have "televison/theater" in their job category have HIV. Stereotype much?
posted by Avenger at 10:24 AM on May 19, 2008


10 out of 10 here too. Seems it's pretty easy to tell who's got the slim, judging from these responses.

Woo hoo! AIDS has been beaten by intuition! I'm buying gay black junkies for everyone!
posted by bunnytricks at 10:25 AM on May 19, 2008


In relation to what rtha posted:
Florida teens who believe drinking a cap of bleach will prevent HIV and a shot of Mountain Dew will stop pregnancy have prompted lawmakers to push for an overhaul of sex education in the state.
posted by pyrex at 10:26 AM on May 19, 2008


By my estimate, about 90% of the people who either "look gay" or have "televison/theater" in their job category have HIV.

The ones that came up for me were the complete opposite. Those that set off gay stereotype alarms were negative.
posted by CKmtl at 10:32 AM on May 19, 2008


I would never let him in my vagina because that would just ruin our relationship.

We gotta keep that extra set of teeth well hidden until after he's walked me up the aisle, amirite girls?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:58 AM on May 19, 2008


I don't know who's HIV+, but that whole site is gay.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:00 AM on May 19, 2008


Creepy. I did the "game" three times and missed only one.
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:03 AM on May 19, 2008


Why is everyone better than me at every single game on the Internet?

I could handle it when everyone beat my average typing speed in the typing race game, or when everyone killed more zombies than me, or when everyone was able to get to level 27 of that one puzzle game when I couldn't get past level 3.

But the HIV game? Seriously? I give up.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:23 AM on May 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


Another vote for creepy. I did the game through twice, and up until the last question I got every one right, basically by looking for fat loss in the face, anyone who looked gay but not too gay as to be a red herring, and black people who didn't list their occupation as "social worker" or something similar.

The one that tripped me up was a healthy looking guy who I thought was in there as a stereotypically gay looking guy to play on people's prejudices. He was pos.

Am I supposed to come away from this believing more so than before that it's easier to tell who has HIV by looking at them and asking a few basic questions about their job and hobbies?
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:27 AM on May 19, 2008


Burnmp3s, my guess would be a combination of a large number of people competing for the highest score, a bias towards high scores among people posting their results and people lying.

Either that, or you suck at the internets.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:31 AM on May 19, 2008


Cooties are totally identifiable on sight though.
posted by Tehanu at 11:33 AM on May 19, 2008


Am I supposed to come away from this believing more so than before that it's easier to tell who has HIV by looking at them and asking a few basic questions about their job and hobbies?

I think that smugness makes blind men and women of us all. The concocters of this site were smug in their faith that it was hard to tell HIV status of their pictured subjects by guessing. Real life is rarely that simple, and, in any case, whether or not you can usually tell by looking is not even the point. If you've engaged in risky sexual behavior, you should get tested, whether or not anyone can tell that you have HIV. This BS game may be effective at bringing people to the message of testing, but it may reinforce a lot of prejudice before getting there.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:39 AM on May 19, 2008


Surprisingly enough, I'm not sure MTV is really telling anybody anything they shouldn't already have learned from playing Urban Dead. Although in the past MTV has always been a stupendously powerful resource, this time they seem to have fallen behind the curve. (Try harder, MTV!) Especially since, apparently, a large number of us actually can guess the HIV status of the people in these pictures. Of course, the fallacy in play here is that we already know to guess that some of these people have HIV...

Anyway -- what exactly is the point of this site, really? It's great to tell people to protect themselves and all, but I wonder whether this doesn't reinforce prejudice of those with HIV...the whole "they walk among us!" aspect of it, intentional or otherwise, strikes me as kind of not cool.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:02 PM on May 19, 2008


About the only picture I would say "pos", with any confidence, would be Goatse.cx

Are there people, in 2008, who seriously have (A) never seen a man (and yes in 99% of cases it's a man) with facial wasting, and/or (B) wouldn't recognize facial wasting in a picture? Is this something that only gay men are aware of?

There are cosmetic treatments for facial wasting but not for the fat-wasting effects on other parts of the body- if you see ultra-vascular legs, you've found your PWA. Yes, just by "looking."

Oh, and my best friend has been poz since 1984 and doesn't have a bit of wasting- not all drug regimens cause it.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 12:42 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I pretty much went by facial expressions. I got 9/10 using that method. My thinking was that they were telling the participants "we want to prove that you can't accurately judge someone's HIV status just by looking at them", and those who were HIV+ were suddenly reminded of the disease (or maybe their own failings in having once thought they could suss it out, and it's why they ended up infected in the first place) and would be unable to give a genuine "life is grand" smile.

Naturally, out in public, I doubt many HIV+ folks are wandering around focusing on their disease, and likely would have the same facial expressions as anyone else.
posted by revmitcz at 12:43 PM on May 19, 2008


Cooties are totally identifiable on sight though.

Cooties themselves are invisible to the naked eye.

However, it is well known that having cooties makes you corroded, and being corroded is so obvious that even your momma can see it.

Luckily, cootie-caused corrosion can be nipped in the bud through careful application of cootie shots.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:00 PM on May 19, 2008


Florida teens who believe drinking a cap of bleach will prevent HIV

Ugh. That doesn't sound like fun foreplay and/or afterglow relaxation.

I guess it makes a twisted bit of sense though, what with all the household cleaning product ads with "the disinfectant power of Bleach kills 99.9% of bacteria and viruses!!!".
posted by CKmtl at 1:48 PM on May 19, 2008


Florida teens who believe drinking a cap of bleach will prevent HIV

Yikes! In that case, I propose that this entire MTV website be replaced with a single page that simply says in big red letters DEFINITELY DON'T DRINK BLEACH, EVER.
posted by Mender at 2:32 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey, drinking bleach never hurt the Dead Milkmen...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 2:59 PM on May 19, 2008


Are there people, in 2008, who seriously have (A) never seen a man (and yes in 99% of cases it's a man) with facial wasting, and/or (B) wouldn't recognize facial wasting in a picture?

Yes. Right here in San Francisco, even. There's an entire generation of young gay men who came up and out after the devastation of the 80s/90s, who didn't lose all their friends to AIDS, and who only know HIV as a manageable disease that you have to take daily drugs for.
posted by rtha at 3:33 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yep, rtha, agreed. In fact just today I read a little narrative on a never-you-mind discussion forum from an 18-y/o kid who had sex with a guy in a gym shower- guy entered him and pulled out after a few thrusts without coming, and that made it, in this youngster's mind, "not barebacking" because the guy didn't shoot off inside him. When somebody mentioned tat the virus is in pre-cum, the kid says, "we were in the shower, so the pre-cum got washed off."

The kid replies in addition: "I'll get tested tomorrow." This little bit of unsafe sex happened yesterday. And he's getting tested TOMORROW. Yeah, that'll work.

THIS is what we are dealing with in the gay community.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 4:04 PM on May 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yep yep yep. And if that's the level of (lack of) education in the gay community - or at least a portion of it - it's not hard to imagine that it's much, much more dismal among straight teenagers.

I saw a clip from America's Next Top Model a while back (it was last season or the season before), and they had a special guest (whatever the right term is for that show) who's a young African American woman with HIV. She talked to the contestants about HIV, and her life, and afterwards, most of them said something like "I never met anybody with HIV before."

Well, honey, you probably have, but you know what? You can't (always) tell by looking.

ethnomethodologist, that's one of the more depressing stories I've heard lately. And all the more depressing because I'd bet it's quite common.
posted by rtha at 4:21 PM on May 19, 2008


The kid replies in addition: "I'll get tested tomorrow." This little bit of unsafe sex happened yesterday. And he's getting tested TOMORROW. Yeah, that'll work.

THIS is what we are dealing with in the gay community.


Yup. I've said it around here before.. (younger) gay men (as rtha pointed out) only 'know' that HIV is something you take pills for and You Will Be Just Fine(tm). The connection between HIV and death has been erased, largely by pharmaceutical advertising.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:46 PM on May 19, 2008


ethnomethodologist, that's one of the more depressing stories I've heard lately. And all the more depressing because I'd bet it's quite common.

The weird thing is that this "it's only barebacking if he comes inside you," or "you come inside him," sounds exactly like the "I'll put a rubber on if it looks like I'm going to come" that I heard more than once after I came out- in 1983. And that I learned was unsafe- in 1984. Now, 24 years and a full generation or more later, the myth is still around.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 5:37 PM on May 19, 2008


Heh. 9/10, purely by going "This person seems to have their life together, judging from the text. They wouldn't be in the quiz if they didn't have the HIV," and likewise, "This guy looks totally gay and campy. He must not be pos." There was only one person who looked like they had their shit together who was negative.

Of course, I was pretty sweet at that Which Asian Are They quiz too.
posted by klangklangston at 5:39 PM on May 19, 2008


Yeah, like that letter from the straight teenager I linked to earlier - "It's only sex if he puts his penis in my vagina - anal sex doesn't count!"
posted by rtha at 5:58 PM on May 19, 2008


I'm not sure why but I'm offended by this.
posted by MikeonTV at 7:23 PM on May 19, 2008


Is this something that only gay men are aware of?

Well, I'm not gay, but I'm pretty sure that the only other straight people I know personally who are aware of it either work in the field or have gay kids, so are regularly exposed to these issues and the discussions around it.

Once someone points it out to you though, it's kinda hard to miss. And kind of surprising, to me at least, how prevalent it is.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:26 PM on May 19, 2008


I think the point of the site is one of those You can't ASSUME that! things. Despite the fact that the MeFi membership seems to be scoring pretty high on their ... HIVdar? Gah. More like "look for that dimple zone oddly depleted of fat"-dar.

Just one of those weird efforts to make people think that all statistical correlations are either zero, one, or negative one.

And it's poz, dagnabit.
posted by adipocere at 8:54 PM on May 19, 2008


The weird thing is that this "it's only barebacking if he comes inside you," or "you come inside him," sounds exactly like the "I'll put a rubber on if it looks like I'm going to come" that I heard more than once after I came out- in 1983. And that I learned was unsafe- in 1984. Now, 24 years and a full generation or more later, the myth is still around.

That myth has been around a lot longer, just with the straight kids. See: withdrawal method (aka Pull Out And Pray).

What's also depressing is how many gay men think "I'm a top, I can't get HIV from barebacking." Yeah, the chances are lower, but they're not zero, not by a long shot.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:32 PM on May 19, 2008


I could get 99% accuracy with people pulled randomly off the street. I could do this by just saying 'negative' every time and relying on the fact that 99% of the population are not HIV positive (here, it may be different where you are). Even if I knew they were in a high-risk group I'd still do better by guessing they were negative.

If you're doing well by guessing people are HIV positive on that site you'll actually do really badly with a random sample of people off the street, because if that website reflected reality you'd very rarely actually see someone on it that was HIV positive.

I can't help thinking they could have done a better job of getting their message across, as I still have trouble getting to exactly how the "get a test" message relates to being able to guess what status someone is.
posted by edd at 1:50 AM on May 20, 2008


I think the game fed the stereotype. More than likely if they looked gay or were black or that one white woman's photo looked like it was out of date so I assumed she was dead, it came back positive.

They should have picked people who didn't fit the stats.
posted by dasheekeejones at 3:47 AM on May 20, 2008


Ironically, when I saw this post, I thought "no, I can't tell by looking". But now I've read the comments, I'm going to be on the lookout for thin-faced, fat-backed people.

Something clearly went wrong with this campaign.
posted by SciencePunk at 5:25 AM on May 20, 2008


Ok, I'm confused as well. I got 100%. So did both of my labmates. Surely that's not what's supposed to be happening.
posted by dmd at 7:57 AM on May 20, 2008


I learned a very valuable lesson here. You can't tell an HIV positive person by looking at complementary photos of them from who knows when.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:52 AM on May 20, 2008


Prior to this thread and a 'facial wasting' image search, if I had seen someone walking by with those characteristics I would have thought they'd recently lost a lot of weight and/or scarring from really bad acne.
posted by CKmtl at 3:03 PM on May 20, 2008


As did my wife. wtf.
posted by dmd at 7:32 PM on May 20, 2008


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