Massachusetts: Ad-Verse Reaction
August 13, 2007
A billboard promoting condom use and HIV testing has offended administrators across the street at Dorchester's Catholic St. Kevin School, and they want it pulled. The safe-sex billboard was part of a $100,000 Boston Public Health Commission HIV/AIDS prevention campaign during gay pride in June. The campaign also ran ads on buses and in transit stations.
The billboard shows two hands holding an unsealed condom. The message: "Are you using? I am. Use a condom. Know your HIV status. Call for a free test." It features the AIDS Action Hotline number and the ad's sponsor, the Boston Public Health Commission.
"I just don't think it's appropriate," sad Kim Mahoney, vice principal of St. Kevin, which offers kindergarten through eighth grade. Not all St. Kevin students are Catholic, but the school teaches Catholic values, Mahoney said. "I don't feel that at this age it's appropriate to be throwing that out at them to see everyday, especially when they're sitting in religion classes."
The billboard was up in June before the school closed for summer, and students in grades five through eight had a clear view of it from class windows. "Students can look right out at it while they are sitting at their desks," said Mahoney.
"We saw a need to sound an alarm about the growing spread of HIV and AIDS among men who have sex with other men," said Ann Scales, commission spokesperson. "We were trying to send a message and hopefully people heard it, but it's certainly not our desire to offend anyone."
The commission and Mayor Thomas M. Menino have promised to take down the billboard before school resumes.
8.9.2007; Jessica Heslam
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.