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Family focus in AIDS ads

New Delhi, April 11: Union health minister Sushma Swaraj, who had banned advertisements depicting condoms as the principal device for preventing AIDS, has sanctioned new television spots on Doordarshan for a campaign on the killer infection.

The new television spots give equal weightage to unsafe sex, use of infected needles and mother-to-child transmission, rather than accord primacy to unsafe sex, as possible carriers of HIV/AIDS. They also focus on the importance of fidelity in marriage as a way of avoiding the infection.

“This will bring those who have gone astray back to their families,” the minister said. “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 (Correct information on AIDS helps keep the infection away).

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

During her tenure as information and broadcasting minister, Swaraj had taken condom advertisements off 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 AIDS.

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