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  • Family, not sex, the focus of new AIDS ads

    The health ministry has given the nod to a new set of TV spots that focus on the other methods of AIDS transmission besides the practice of unsafe sex and promotes marital fidelity as a way of avoiding the infection

    The health ministry has given the nod to a new set of TV spots that focus on the other methods of AIDS transmission besides the practice of unsafe sex and promotes marital fidelity as a way of avoiding the infection

    New television spots for India’s anti-AIDS campaign have been sanctioned by union health minister Sushma Swaraj. The new ads focus on methods of HIV/AIDS transmission that include unsafe sex, the sharing of needles, the use of infected needles and mother-to-child transmission, rather than stressing solely on the practice of unsafe sex.

    They also focus on the importance of fidelity in marriage as a way of avoiding the infection.

    Earlier this year, Swaraj, in her capacity as Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Minister had banned TV advertisements depicting condoms as the principal device for preventing AIDS and spots that followed this theme had been pulled off the air.

    “This will bring those who have gone astray back to their families,” the minister claimed. “It is true that 80 per cent of HIV/AIDS infection is transmitted through unsafe sex but what about the other 20 per cent? That, too, needs to be highlighted.”

    The core of the new television spots lies in its slogan: “AIDS ki sahi jankari rakkhe door AIDS bimari ” (Accurate information about AIDS helps keep the infection away).

    The correct information is given in two charts — the first outlines the sources of the HIV infection and the second tells viewers that HIV is not transmitted by touching a patient or sharing food and a kitchen with him or her.

    During her tenure as I&B minister, Swaraj had taken the condom advertisements off national broadcaster Doordarshan on the grounds that they focused exclusively on unsafe sex and conveyed the impression of a licentious society.

    One showed a father coming across condoms kept in his son’s cupboard. Another had a paanwala giving his customer a packet of condoms with the paan, while a third one showed a young man rushing to give a packet of condoms to his friend who is leaving the suburbs for the city.

    “These gave isolated information about HIV/AIDS transmission,” Swaraj said. “We have to get back to family values.”

    The National AIDS Control Organisation defended itself, saying all the advertisements stressed the importance of “restraint and abstinence” along with “protection”.

    Non-government organisations working on AIDS said the advertisements merely reflected reality and could not be described as promoting licentiousness.

    “The slogans of restraint and abstinence were incorporated in the condom advertisements only after I insisted,” the minister said, adding that the new campaign will put in place a more “holistic” approach to fighting the spread of AIDS.

    Source: The Telegraph

    April 11, 2003

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