The first national HIV prevention campaign since the Grim Reaper in 1987 has none of the original’s shock value.

The $9.8 million Federal Government campaign will instead focus on interactive ways to engage young people about the benefits of condoms to prevent HIV, chlamydia and syphilis.

The campaign is based on research of 2500 sexually active young Australians that found the lack of convenient condom availability was a leading cause of high rates of unprotected sex.

Nearly half of high risk youth -” with six or more sexual partners in a year -” had not used a condom the last time they had sex.

Gay youth were the most willing to openly discuss condom use with a sexual partner, but STI knowledge and condom use were very low across all young people.

Myths that some STIs only affect women and unprotected oral sex has no risk were common, but often identified as unreliable.

Young people were often concerned that to suggest condom use may imply a perception that the other person is in some sense -˜dirty’, -˜slutty’ or of poor moral character -” that is, a likely carrier of STIs, the accompanying report said.

The reluctance to discuss and suggest condom use was less common among homosexual research participants, who often expressed a willingness to identify potential risks and negotiate use of condoms.

Gay male youth were twice as likely to get tested for STIs than heterosexual youth. The young people complained that embarrassment and a lack of privacy, particularly in rural areas or with a family doctor, put them off seeking tests.

Resource kits provided to students aged 16 or older will include interactive -˜wheel’ fact sheets and pocket-sized cards that give comeback lines to common excuses a partner gives when he doesn’t want to use a condom.

The campaign’s slogan will be STIs are on the rise, always use a condom. The Government did not indicate whether it will faciliate the availability of condoms in schools.

While gay youth do appear better educated about STIs than their heterosexual peers, they continue to be the most at risk of HIV.

Nationally, the rate of new HIV infections is on the rise, with the majority being gay men.
The new education campaign was announced by the Howard Government in 2007.
The campaign is online at australia.gov.au/sti

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