“Do whatever you want, but do it with a condom,” is the message to young gay Brazilians from a new campaign against HIV and AIDS.

Government officials have defended targeting gay men, citing statistics that found there are 1.5 million gay men who have sex with men (MSM) aged between 15 and 49 out of a total population of 184 million.

The director of the National Programme of HIV and AIDS, Mariangela Simao, said:

“These groups are more susceptible to HIV infection.”

A survey of sexual attitudes and behaviour from 2004 is the source of the figures quoted by the Brazilian Health Ministry.

Other stats show that MSM aged between 13 and 24 in the country made up 24% of people with AIDS in 1996, but 41% on 2006.

The figures jumped from 26% to 37% in the same time period among 25 to 29-year-olds.

The posters were inspired by the advertising for the Hollywood film American Beauty.

In Britain the Department of Health had a similar idea in February as part of their “Condom: Essential Wear” Valentine’s campaign.

Pop star Alesha posed in a bath filled with (unopened) condoms.

The Brazilian government is to distribute half a million leaflets and 100,000 posters about how to use condoms and information about STDs, including HIV, in gay bars and health access points.

Julio Moreira, head of HIV prevention programmes at gay health group Rainbow, told InterPress Service that gay men are 18 times more likely to be infected with HIV.

“With the availability of the anti-retroviral AIDS drug cocktails and the longer survival of people with AIDS, the new generation have not seen their friends die and haven’t experienced the pain of the loss of someone very close, so they have become careless about using condoms,” he said.

But the Rio de Janerio government’s STD and AIDS prevention programmes director Alexandre Chieppe, said:

“Actually, the trend toward more AIDS cases in the young gay population is generally the same as is seen among heterosexual men of the same generation.

“Among the general population, the AIDS epidemic is stabilising, but cases are still increasing among young men in general and, within that group, gays.”

Homophobia has been blamed for the lack of previous campaigns targeted at gay men and the trans population.