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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

OHIO: Sexy Ads Promote Safe-Sex Behavior


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 Facebook.

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


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Information in this article was accurate in March 29, 2012. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.