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New AIDS prevention ads focus on teens

AIDS awareness ad December 1, 1995
Web posted at: 11:00 a.m. EST (1600 GMT)

From Correspondent Jeff Levine

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. public health officials have unveiled a new AIDS prevention media campaign made up of spots that aim their frank message about sexual behavior at youth. Some critics think the effort is misdirected. (1.4M QuickTime movie)

"Respect yourself, protect yourself" is the theme of the new campaign. Kids not only deliver the message, they helped create the concept. Abstinence is recommended -- but condom use is encouraged in the absence of abstinence.

Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala says the purpose behind the $400,000 campaign is deadly serious.

"What we have is a generation in jeopardy," she said. "And it's up to us all to take action now to reverse these tragic trends." (134K AIFF sound or 134K WAV sound)

Because AIDS can take 10 years to develop, the idea is to catch teenagers and people in their 20s, groups in which the virus is spreading rapidly.

"It is essential to young adults that they see and hear more from their peers," said Dr. David Satcher, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. "That they hear them talking about their thoughts and their feelings about this problem."

The AIDS epidemic has already claimed some 300,000 lives in the United States. It is the leading cause of death for people ages 25 to 44. And the number of cases among bisexuals, particularly in minority communities, is growing at an alarming rate.

"These PSAs (public service announcements) focus on behaviors that put anyone at risk for becoming infected with HIV or other sexually transmitted disease," said Dr. Helene Gayle of the CDC. (107K AIFF sound or 107K WAV sound)

Still, some conservatives think the campaign is off the mark.

hamrick "The research is very clear that in a condom-based approach to teen sex we see an increase generally of teen pregnancy, teen sexually transmitted disease rates and teen AIDS," said Kristi Hamrick of the Family Research Council. (112K AIFF sound or 112K WAV sound)

The last previous anti-AIDS spots produced by the government featured dancing condoms. Public health officials now hope that a more direct message delivered by those facing the epidemic head-on will make a difference.

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