Sue Wilson on how to ' market the safe-sex message. 1

Selling safe sex was never going to be 3 easy. With sex regarded as both 1 extremely personal and somehow contraband, it’s an area where people are inevitably deeply 5 resistant to outside advice, however i sound. Combined with the pre-AIDS unpopularity of condoms ; (awkward, obtrusive, de-sensitising) this makes for one big marketing ' headache. ; ‘There are so many factors that can f conspire against people using l condoms,’ says Paul Trainer, Scottish AIDS Monitor’s information officer. ‘They might be drunk; their partner might just blankly say no, and it can be difficult I

Condoms, as emblems of government-approved, risk- reduced rumpy-pumpv. can

easily be cast as passion g


for various reasons then to refuse to have sex; someone might be worried that they’ll be perceived as having HIV; maybe they think they‘re safe because they’ve been going out i together for a while.‘ i

A range of specific, practical responses has now been developed to tackle such stumbling-blocks SAM’s Safer Sex Roadshow features a ‘condom comeback wheel’, listing many of the objections people raise to using condoms against a range of suggested answers. Staff at Lothian Health Board’s Spittal Street Centre, which co-ordinates various HIV prevention projects, have

devised the ‘pill pack‘, containing

condoms, two or three months’ supply of pills and a combined pill-and~condom holder, to help GPs raise the issue of HIV prevention with women who request the Pill, addressing the problem of people using condoms for brief encounters, but abandoning them once a relationship develops.

SAM and the Harm Reduction Team also emphasise the basic importance of availability, distributing free condoms around student unions, concerts, gay bars and clubs as well as contraceptive clinics. They have also introduced the ‘C-Card’ scheme, whereby people can obtain supplies from various outlets without even having to utter the dreaded word, simply by showing a plastic card.

Some difficulties are more pernicious, however, like the stubborn equation in many people’s minds of ‘safe’ with ‘boring’. The

association between danger and sexual thrill is a powerful one and condoms, as emblems of government-approved, risk-reduced rumpy-pumpy, can easily be cast as passion-killers. Most agencies involved in HIV prevention are trying to tackle this image problem with stylish ad campaigns featuring attractive amorous couples in various stages of undress, all telling us in various ways what fun they’re having with latex.

HIV-prevention campaigns also have to tread carefully around our society’s ludicrous squeamishness about discussing sex. The Great British Public may now be familiar with the sight of condoms, (as long as they’re unsuggestively confined to their foil packets) but start talking at all explicitly about what you do with

them and suddenly you‘re polluting the nation’s morals. Kevin Haigh, head of the Harm Reduction Team, takes a pragmatic line. ‘You’ve got to work within whatever strictures society places on you,’ he says. ‘It’s a question of getting the balance right if we go too far and really offend people, we’ll only get marginalised. But things have moved forward the Take Care campaign has got the word ‘sex‘ on the sides of buses,

; which might seem basic but would I have been pretty difficult a few years


Paul Trainer believes that we are, slowly, being forced to confront our hang-ups. ‘AIDS has already shown us an awful lot of things that society can’t afford to ignore any longer, like drug use, homosexuality, prostitution; even, at a basic level, sex itself. We can’t brush these things under the carpet any more, and if anything good can be said to have come out of AIDS it’s that as a society we‘ve had to grow up a little bit.’

Scottish AIDS Monitor 031 555 4850/04] 353 3133. Spittal Street Centre 031 229 5995.

Did you know?

If you live in Lothian you

can get free condoms from various outlets with

a C card.


To find your nearest C card outlet phone in confidence 031 229 5686

Testing for HIV

Are you worried about HIV infection? The Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and the City Hospital offer c0unse|iing to help you decide about taking the test. The result can be available the same day as the test. The services are strictly confidential. No information will be passed on to your doctor or to anybody else without yOur permission.

You can find out more about testing by phoning in confidence: Genito-Urinary Medicine Clinic - 031 229 2477 for an appointment or advice.

or the HIV Counselling Clinic - 031 447 1001 ext. 3214 for an appointment or 031 447 0411 for advice.


It you have any questions or want to talk to someone you can phone the National AIDS Helpline Freephone 0800 567 1 23 - 24 hours a day

The List 20 November -~ 3 December 109215