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HIV/AIDS News Bradford McIntyre

CHILE ANTI-AIDS CAMPAIGN TO SHOW HOW TO USE CONDOMS

New Campaign To Be Launched July 28

(July 20, 2007) Chile's Health Ministry announced this week that its 2007 campaign against AIDS will contain more comprehensive information on ways to prevent the disease's transmission, including explicit instructions on how to use a condom.

The campaign will be heavily promoted for the first time this year in the mass media, using radio and television commercials, as well a large public event on July 28. In years past, AIDS campaigns were publicized mostly on large billboards.

The AIDS spots will use short and informative phrases such as, "In Chile someone gets infected with HIV every 20 seconds," and, "In Chile there are 15,000 people with HIV and 60 percent of them do not know it."

Aside from instructions on condom use, the campaign will also promote two prevention methods not used in years past: sexual abstinence and engaging in monogamous relationships. The decision to spotlight those methods irked several grassroots organizations which helped to plan the campaign because they allegedly were not consulted about those additions.

Officials will have their work cut out for them. To date, 15,894 Chileans have officially reported HIV infection, with the majority of them asymptomatic. It is estimated that 15 percent of those infected are women and 85 percent are men, and that most are under 35 years of age. Still, health officials have warned in the past that the disease could be affecting as many as 50,000 Chileans, since many may be infected but unaware of their condition.

Similar AIDS campaigns in the past have provoked the ire of the Catholic Church, conservative political parties and conservative citizens groups. Still, AIDS health care advocates believe the anti-AIDS campaign must be more aggressive to fit Chile's reality.

NGOs such as Vivo Positivo have even resorted to their own independent publicity campaign to spread awareness of AIDS. That organization recently distributed thousands of eye-catching postcards in restaurants, bars, and other locales throughout Chile. The postcards contain photos of naked couples taking a condom out of its package before having sex.

Gay Action leader Marcelo Aguilar said explicit publicity is necessary. "In Chile, 95 percent of HIV cases are caused by having unprotected sex, not just by having sex or not having an exclusive partner," he said.

The situation is complicated by the fact that Chileans currently exhibit extremely low rates of condom use. According to a 2006 Health Ministry Study, forty-nine percent of youth between 15 and 19 did not use birth control during their first sexual experience, or in sexual experiences thereafter. (ST, July 18) Meanwhile, a 2004 study disclosed that fifty-two percent of Chileans reported never using a condom during sex.

The high price tag of condoms has been cited as a possible contributing factor to their low usage. Condoms cost about US$1 apiece in pharmacies - not cheap in a country where the minimum wage is less than $300 per month. (ST, February 26)

In response to this concern, the Health Ministry announced last February it would expand a pilot program to make condoms cheaper and more accessible in Santiago's "most vulnerable" neighborhoods.

Though free condoms are available through Chile's public clinics, long waiting periods for appointments and the bureaucratic process often discourage young Chileans from going to these clinics. (ST, July 10)

SOURCE: LA TERCERA By: Matt Malinowski (editor@santiagotimes.cl)


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"Reproduced with permission - The Santiago Times "

The Santiago Times
www.tcgnews.com/santiagotimes/




 

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