In AIDS campaign, poster child faces false assumptions

By Marissa Warden

I was making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when Alberto came up to me and asked me to be in a photo shoot, said Oleh Zaychenko ’12, the model for Macalester’s Face AIDS “wearacondom” campaign. The posters around campus depict a Macalester student with the quote “it was my first time, once is enough,” which was intended to indicate the importance of wearing a condom. The provocative quote has led many to believe that Zaychenko has AIDS. Zaychenko said that while he and the other models for the campaign do not, in fact, have HIV or AIDS, the misunderstanding has been “kind of irritating.”

“I’ve been answering questions if I have AIDS or STDs for a couple days,” Zaychenko said.

Alberto de la Rosa ’11, co-creator of the poster campaign, said he was surprised by the controversy. He said he “never thought that people would think the models had AIDS because people don’t usually identify with models; they are part of a different world.”

The purpose of this campaign is to advertise the Face AIDS organization, increase fundraising efforts and promote the use of condoms among youth. De la Rosa plans to extend the campaign to other local colleges.

The posters were intended to make a statement, and the organizers said they believed that the use of such a personal quote juxtaposed with the emotion projected by the model would cause people to stop and notice the message.

“It’s the emotion in the face that matters, not the face in particular,” said David Lawrence ’09, the president of Face Aids.

This poster is the first in a series of five to be displayed around campus next semester. Lawrence suggested they would be “more careful with verbiage in the future” and use more factual quotes next to the pictures of Macalester models.

Zaychenko was not aware that his poster would be released first. He said he thought that “by the time [his poster was shown] people would know that I don’t have AIDS. It’s the same thing in magazines, people know the models don’t have AIDS.”

De la Rosa wanted to use Macalester students for the campaign because he wanted people to be able to identify with the models, but he also wanted to choose attractive students for the poster.