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Surviving & Thriving: AIDS, Politics, and Culture

Condoms as Safer Sex

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In 1985, researchers at the University of California at San Francisco confirmed what many AIDS service providers and people with AIDS already assumed: condoms, when used consistently and correctly, could prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. This was true with sex between men as well as sex between men and women. These findings, with support from the Office of the Surgeon General of the United States pushed public health departments across the country to create social marketing campaigns to encourage condom use. Some campaigns were graphically subdued, using large type and funny copy to entice a largely heterosexual audience without seeming illicit. Alternatively, the Safer Sex Comix published by the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York City used humorous explicit imagery to reach gay audiences by suggesting that condom use could be pleasurable.