The Indonesian health ministry’s campaign to inform the public about HIV transmission began with good intentions and ended with an apology this week after everyone realized its new posters were spreading more myth than fact.
Officials said the new campaign was meant to debunk myths about the spread of HIV, but did the exact opposite with hundreds of posters that claimed HIV can be transmitted through mosquito bites, swimming, saliva, food, and sneezing.
The posters, plastered on commuter trains throughout Jakarta, were removed following public outcry.
Senior health ministry official Muhammad Subuh immediately called the gaffe an “honest mistake,” saying the company that printed the posters forgot to print the word “not” and therefore pretty much reversed the sentiment of the campaign.
“We have made a public apology and now the banners are being removed and replaced with the correct ones,” Subuh told the told te AFP. “They omitted the word ’not’, it was an honest mistake.”
The correction, however, is too late for some. Calling the mix-up “an unfortunate yet fatal mistake,” Fortune PR CEO and Jakarta resident Ati Muchtar said the ministry “must improve quality control in every area, especially concerning anything that represents the Ministry of Health in public spaces.”