North Carolina: Swain Condom Billboard Sparks Complaints
June 2, 2011
A billboard on US 19, a few miles outside of Bryson City, is one of two in the area that advertise free condoms, family planning, and health screenings. Swain County Health Department used $992 in federal funds to pay for billboards, with the hope of getting the word out about its services.
The county's plan seems to be working: The ads have garnered widespread attention, as well as mild controversy among residents.
David Monteith, a school bus driver and a county commissioner, worries the ads send the wrong message to kids. "I come from a generation where you don't have sex until you get married," said Monteith, noting he has received at least a dozen calls from residents who oppose the message and two from those who support it.
Health Department Director Linda White said the backlash surprises her. The billboards are not aimed at teenagers, she said, and their message of testing and prevention is sound. "If one of those kids knows how to protect himself from seeing that sign, I have done my job," White added.
Department staffers tell everyone the best way to prevent STDs and pregnancy is to abstain from sex, the director said. In addition, free condoms have been available through the department for 30 years, White said.
According to a county Health Department report last year, nearly 50 percent of local high school students reported having had sex.
05.31.2011; Jon Ostendorff
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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