Columbus Dispatch (03.26.12) - Thursday, March 29, 2012
The "Take Care Down There" campaign in Columbus is using
unabashedly sexy ads to promote safe sex for young gay men.
Billboards depict fit, shirtless guys with arrows pointing
beneath their waistlines.
Columbus Public Health (CPH) Prevention Services Manager
Makeda Porter's goal was to be forthright but not preachy.
Porter and colleagues convened focus groups that polled young
men - blacks in particular.
Focus group participants voiced wanting a "message that was
direct, positive, not scary, and succinct," said Porter. In
2009, 67 percent of new HIV cases were among 13- to 24-year-
old black men who have sex with men.
Campaign billboards will debut next month near downtown
Columbus. Coasters in bars will carry similar images, while a
website will provide information on STD testing, condom use,
and local resources. Business cards will be circulated to
promote safe sex education and HIV testing.
The ads, which have appeared in Outlook magazine, are set for
radio and social media outlet distribution, including
Porter notes, however, that Clear Channel has opposed a
billboard on 4th Street in Italian Village. "The arrow is the
issue," said company spokesman Jim Cullinan. "Families and
kids will see that. We just have to look for a level of
appropriateness." Clear Channel agreed to run the ad without
the arrow, but CPH spokesman Jose Rodriguez maintains that
would diminish the ad's impact. City officials are considering
other billboard firms for the campaign.
The federally funded, $20,000 campaign aims to encourage young
gay men to take HIV and other STDs more seriously. "They're
not seeing the deaths and the illness," said Porter. "Yes, it
is something that is more manageable, but it's not something
that you want to have to manage."
For more information, visit www.takecaredowntherecolumbus.com.