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Republican governor stops HIV prevention campaign because he doesn’t like condom packaging

Vic Parsons January 16, 2020
HIV

The governor of Utah did not approve of 'sexual innuendo' on condom packaging. (Utah Department of Health)

A free condom campaign in Utah, that was part of an HIV-prevention programme, has been called off because the governor thinks it promoted “sexual innuendo”.

The “H is for Human” campaign had planned to hand out 100,000 free condoms to try to lower rates of HIV transmission in the state, as part of a programme funded by the Utah department of health.

The campaign had hired an advertising firm to come up with sex-positive and pun-filled slogans for the condom packaging, in order to encourage people to take the condoms and talk about them.

The slogans included: “Enjoy your Mountin” with an image of a mountain, a reference to Utah’s landscape; “SL, UT”, a play on Salt Lake City, Utah; “Explore Utah’s Caves”; and “Don’t Go Bare”, with a picture of a bear.

“The governor understands the importance of the Utah Department of Health conducting a campaign to educate Utahns about HIV prevention,” said a spokesperson for the Republican governor Gary Herbert.

“He does not, however, approve the use of sexual innuendo as part of a taxpayer-funded campaign, and our office has asked the department to rework the campaign’s branding.”

The campaign had been modelled after other successful HIV-prevention schemes in states like Alaska and Wyoming, which used local humour to promote awareness of safer sex and HIV.

Michael Sanders, a volunteer in Utah who had been distributing the condoms before being told to stop, said: “I was on my way to the University of Utah when I got word that it was about to be shut down by governor Herbert’s office.”

Sanders called the governor’s office to ask why it was being shut down, and was told “it was an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars”.

He had been handing out condoms in LGBT+ spaces like community centre’s and bars to get the message out to queer people.

Erin Fratto, from the Utah health department, said, “If the condoms are fun, relatable, sex-positive — people are more apt to talk about them, which we’ve already seen.”

But the department of health released a statement apologising for the condom campaign, saying it regretted “the lewd nature of the branding”.

“The designs did not go through necessary approval channels and we have asked our partners to stop distributing them immediately,” the statement said.

“We remain committed to running a campaign to help in the prevention of HIV and intend to do so in a manner that better respects taxpayer dollars, and our role as a government agency.”

More: free condoms, HIV, Utah

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