The Vangardist, a German men's magazine, is printing an entire issue using HIV-infected blood in a quest to educate the public and eliminate misconceptions about HIV and AIDS.
Of course, there's also the issue of taking this approach to raise the magazine's literary and commercial value. The Vangardist's May issue is already being considered a collector's item since just 3,000 copies featuring the HIV-positive ink blood have been printed.
Reports initially claimed just the provocative cover was printed using HIV-positive blood for ink, a design approach the magazine is stressing is perfectly safe to touch and hold while reading.
Now, others are saying the entire issue was printed with HIV-infected blood. The magazine's editorial focus this month zeroes in on those battling HIV. The publication hopes to put HIV front and center to spur public awareness and further research into eradicating the deadly disease.
"There's been an 80 percent increase in HIV in the last 10 years—that's according to the World Health Organization—and that's pretty shocking," stated Jason Romeyko, executive creative director for Saatchi & Saatchi Switzerland, which helped design the controversial edition. "The reason why that's happening is people just aren't talking about it anymore."
The question, though, is whether the provocative approach will indeed spark conversation about HIV or the magazine's design. The publication is headquartered in Vienna and claims to have a readership of 100,000 a month.
"We wanted people to actually hold the magazine and just make the comparison—there's nothing wrong with holding someone who's HIV positive," said Romeyko.
According to the Saatchi & Saatchi agency, the blood used as ink was donated by those with HIV, ranging from 26 years old to 45 years old.
The magazine is safe to handle, explained Romeyko. The HIV virus dies within 30 minutes of being taken out of a host. The donors' blood was pasteurized, a heat process that assures the virus is neutralized and incapable of transmission, stated the magazine.
Romeyko admits the idea of using HIV blood didn't get any big endorsements from activist AIDS organizations, given the potential for panic and public health outcries.
The true acceptance test will come next week when the magazine hits the newsstands.
"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," wrote Vangardist CEO and publisher Julian Wiehl.