The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sushma ad jolt to AIDS project

New Delhi, Jan. 10: The National AIDS Control Organisation’s campaign against AIDS is in the lurch after the information and broadcasting minister pulled off the air eight advertisements on condom promotion.

After Sushma Swaraj’s reprimand, national broadcaster Doordarshan immediately pulled the plug on all condom advertisements, barring two.

Naco is worried that stripping off a vital element of its anti-HIV/AIDS campaign could slow it down with disastrous results. Another worry is the target: Doordarshan, the television channel with the widest reach in the country. Worse still is the cause for Swaraj’s displeasure: the subject of the advertisement and not the presentation alone.

According to insiders, Swaraj believes the emphasis on condoms to promote AIDS awareness is overdone. She wants the advertisements to equally emphasise other channels of HIV transmission, such as blood transfusion, mother to child and drug addiction.

“The fact is 90 per cent of HIV/AIDS (infections) happen through sexual intercourse. This is a hard fact,” a non-government organisation activist said.

Swaraj was so annoyed that she also decided against a TV spot that advertised condom use to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The spot, titled Kajri, shows a doctor advising a couple to use condoms after one of the partners contracts STD.

A recent Johns Hopkins University-ORG-Marg survey of 7,000 people in the key Hindi-belt states revealed the advertisements’ results. Over half the sample population had watched the condom advertisements and 11 per cent had already acted on them by using condoms or consulting a doctor.

Another 40 per cent said they planned to act on the advice in the next few months. As many as 95 per cent of the respondents found the television spots watchable for couples, 50 per cent said it was acceptable among friends and 60 per cent were ready to watch it with family.

Swaraj, however, is not impressed. She has another objection to the advertisements: These encourage promiscuity in society.

The advertisements show parents finding condoms in their son’s cupboard, a friend handing one to the protagonist leaving a small town for the city, and a shopkeeper offering a condom with a shampoo.

Naco is now awaiting Doordarshan’s decision after it reviews the advertisements. The organisation authorities, however, are not very hopeful of a favourable verdict.

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