'Progressive Men's Magazine' Adds HIV-Positive Blood to Ink on Cover

May 4th, 2015 6:02 PM

A Vienna-based magazine that calls itself Vangardist -- and a “progressive men’s magazine” -- is seeking to renew interest in the rise of HIV and AIDS around the world this week by printing a select number of magazine covers using ink infused with HIV-infected blood.

The 3,000 copies of the publication's special edition also feature stories of "HIV heroes" at a time when the editors say too many people have grown complacent about the disease.

During an interview with CBS reporter Vladimir Duthiers, Jason Romeyko of Saatchi & Saatchi Switzerland, the firm that helped design the cover, explained: “The special edition of 3,000 copies was printed to remind the world that HIV has not gone away and has, in fact, only grown.

“The reason why that's happening is people just aren't talking about it anymore,” Romeyko continued.

“With HIV/AIDS still the sixth-leading cause of death worldwide, claiming 1.5 million lives each year,” he said the editors felt it shouldn't be treated as “old news” or relegated to just the occasional “awareness day” in the press.

To create the cover, three people living with HIV donated blood for the project” over a few months, he stated. “Scientifically, the virus dies naturally outside the body. It takes about 30 minutes for it to decompose. ... The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that HIV cannot survive outside its host for long.

An article by Paula Cohen provided more information on the donors:

One is a 26-year-old gay man from Berlin, one is a heterosexual man who wished to remain anonymous, and the third is a 45-year-old mother who got infected by a husband who never told her he was HIV-positive.

The three donors' blood samples were taken to a lab at the University of Innsbruck, where they were pasteurized, a heat process that assures the virus is neutralized and incapable of transmission.

“There's been an 80 percent increase of new HIV infections in Europe and Central Asia,” Romeyko stated before noting that the editors of the magazine -- “which has been around for about five years” -- wanted to “do something to raise awareness” about the disease.

Vangardist is published in English and German. It claims a readership of 100,000 a month, most of whom follow the magazine and its articles online. Just 3,000 copies of this special HIV-positive edition were printed.

However, the magazine ran into some trouble finding a printer willing to do the job. It finally turned to a small print shop that had produced its very first issue, and the owner agreed to do it himself, not wanting to make his employees take part.

One result of that collaboration was “the first-ever publication created with a combination of HIV-infected blood and ink,” the designer stated.

Duthiers, who had an advance copy of the regular version of the issue, called the outcome “incredible” and asserted that “this is a way to break the stigma of living with HIV.”

“Despite the virulence of AIDS,” Cohen stated, “the publishers hastened to note that the covers are 100 percent safe and cannot give anyone the infection” because those special issues are sealed inside a plastic pouch. "Break the seal and help break the stigma," it says on the label.

"We decided to give people a choice," Romeyko said, encouraging them to take an active role in confronting the disease.

But he realizes that not everyone is ready for the hands-on experience: “I showed it to a client, and she was too scared to pick it up.”

Romeyko also admitted that some AIDS activist groups and NGOs [non-governmental organizations] the magazine consulted “weren't thrilled with the idea and seemed concerned that the magazine might set off a panic or backlash against people with HIV.”

The magazine will be available online for free, although the editors are asking readers to make a donation to an HIV foundation. A number of copies of the HIV-positive special edition will be auctioned off for charity, and another 15,000 copies will be available printed in regular ink.

In the opening pages of the magazine, Vangardist's publisher and CEO, Julian Wiehl, writes: "If you're holding the 'infected' print edition in your hands right now, you'll get into contact with HIV like never before. … It will make you reflect on HIV, and you will think differently afterward. Because now the issue is in your hands.”

Even though copies of the issue have yet to hit the newsstands, those behind the project are pleased with their result. "I think the cause is right, and we've treated this very sensitively. It makes you think. It's very provocative, in a good way," Romeyko added.