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AIDS Action Calls for Condom Ads on Adult-Rated Television Programs

July 27, 1998

Contact: or call: 202-986-1300

Washington, D.C. -- In identical letters sent to the presidents of the six major television networks, AIDS Action today urged a modernization of the network condom ad prohibition by allowing such ads during network programs rated "S" for sexual content under the new television ratings system. Currently, only some cable networks including MTV allow condom ads. [Attached is the text of a letter to network presidents from AIDS Action Executive Director Daniel Zingale.]

AIDS Action advocated for the action as part of "The Virtual Vaccine," a ten-point policy initiative designed to reinvigorate the national commitment to HIV prevention. AIDS Action unveiled the plan at a press conference at the National Press Club July 20 in response to increased HIV infection rates and flat federal funding for prevention programs.

"Let's put the V-chip to use in fighting AIDS as well as violence," said Daniel Zingale, AIDS Action's executive director. "Networks that sensationalize sex on TV have a responsibility to portray the reality of sex, not just the fantasy."

During roughly the same two years during which HIV infection rates have increased, federal prevention funding has remained flat, and no bold prevention initiatives have been proposed by the Clinton Administration. In addition, recent studies indicate that Americans get more of their health news and AIDS information from mass media and television than from health professionals and providers.

"AIDS drugs cost $40 a day. Condoms cost 40 cents and stop HIV," added Zingale. "Too many young people think condoms and 'safe sex' are an 'eighties thing' book-ended between C. Everett Koop and Nancy Reagan's wagging finger. 'Just say no' just doesn't work."

The television ratings system was implemented during the last several years and will work in conjunction with the "V-chip," an electronic screening device to be deployed in the next generation of televisions that will allow parents to block reception of programs with specific ratings. Thus, the technology exists for the blockage of advertisements as well as programs.

"In one stroke, the new ratings system and the 'V-chip' have nullified arguments that condom ads would violate parents' rights," added Zingale.

"The Virtual Vaccine" plan is the centerpiece of AIDS Action's campaign to ensure that prevention is treated like the medical vaccine our society desperately craves. Also included in the plan are a twenty-five percent increase in funding at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, treatment on request to help stem the twin epidemics of substance abuse and AIDS, a national effort for better access to rapid HIV testing and creation of a Web site featuring anonymous E-mail, prevention counselors and a national testing referral database.


July 27, 1998

On July 20, AIDS Action unveiled "The Virtual Vaccine," a ten-point plan designed to reinvigorate our national commitment to HIV prevention. We launched this plan as the foundation for an aggressive new campaign to end flat federal prevention spending and slow increasing HIV infection rates.

One of the points in our plan calls for innovative and renewed social marketing of HIV prevention. During the past several years, public service advertising has been stagnant and safe sex has become an anachronism to many young people who falsely view new life-prolonging AIDS drugs as a cure. As a result, risky sexual behavior has increased and, consequently, so have HIV infection rates. In fact, half of the 40,000 new HIV infections in America every year are among young people.

Our social marketing proposal says that networks have a responsibility to portray sexual reality, not just fantasy and that, instead of sensationalizing sex on television, networks should also use the new ratings system to battle AIDS as well as violence.

We are asking [NETWORK NAME] to reverse its policy of prohibiting condom advertisements during network programs and accept such ads during programs rated "S" for sexual content under the new rating system. Allowing condom ads on "S" rated programs would help reach those at risk for HIV and AIDS and allow parents to screen such ads.

In fact, in a recent National Health Council study, forty percent of those surveyed named television as their primary source for medical information compared with 36 percent who named physicians. And a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study found that African-Americans, who are now at the epicenter of the epidemic, depend primarily on mass media for AIDS information.

Taking this step would also help you fulfill an important role as a responsible corporate citizen during a tragic new period of the AIDS epidemic. Indeed, our Virtual Vaccine plan is built on the premise that a new era of prevention will be successful through shared responsibility from individuals, communities, government leaders, the media, educators and corporate America.

We hope you will join us in this effort to ensure that HIV doesn't devastate a new generation at risk just as it did the last one. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like to discuss this issue further.


Daniel Zingale,
Executive Director

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This article was provided by AIDS Action Council.
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