Swiss AIDS Drive Makes the Point
May 16, 2006
A new federal HIV prevention campaign in Switzerland features naked athletes fencing and ice skating. The image of healthy flesh exposed to sharp blades is meant to convey the safe-sex message "no action without protection." The national campaign is running on television, in cinemas, and on billboards.
"We want to tell people that, just like ice hockey or fencing, you don't have sex naked," said Roger Staub, head of the Federal Health Office's AIDS prevention section. "You should wear a condom."
The health office has deployed similarly provocative campaigns before. A few years ago, it advised those tempted to stray from long-term partners to always wear a condom. A campaign aimed at business leaders, politicians, and army officers asked, "Haven't you forgotten something? That is, your condom." Along borders, posters suggested to tourists that wearing a condom was obligatory.
In the 1980s-90s, frequent tourism to high-prevalence countries and intravenous drug use helped fuel Switzerland's HIV epidemic. But prevention campaigns, including needle exchange and heroin prescriptions for long-term users, brought down Swiss HIV rates.
Today, HIV rates are declining among heterosexuals and drug users, but new infections rose 34 percent among gay men last year. "This is very worrying," said Staub. "If a gay man meets another gay man tonight, the risk that one of them is already infected is more than 10 percent. And, clearly, some are not using protection -- that is why we are seeing more new infections."
Among more than 700 people infected with HIV since July 2005, 80 percent knew how they were infected and more than half knew when. Most knew their partner was HIV-positive, but 20 percent had condomless sex anyway.
"We live in a society where if you want to kill yourself you can," said Staub. "I'm less worried about the ones who know the situation, they've made a conscious choice, than the ones who don't know."
05.13.06; Imogen Foulkes
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.