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Saturday, 8 June, 2002, 17:01 GMT 18:01 UK
Brazil Aids campaign causes stir
poster from the campaign
Brazil has become a leader in the fight against Aids

A daring Aids prevention campaign is being launched this week in the Brazilian media.

For the first time since the epidemic began more than 20 years ago, the campaign is being aimed at male homosexuals.

One of the campaign posters shows two young guys - one of them is holding a condom, and the other a tube of lubricant gel.

poster from the campaign
The advert will be shown on prime-time television
One advert published in magazines says: "Use a condom with your boyfriend. This should also be a conversation between a father and his son".

In the photo, a father and his son are hugging, and both are smiling, making it clear that there isn't any problem in terms of prejudice or acceptance between them.

But the part of the campaign that is likely to create the biggest stir is a television advert that will be shown at prime time.

In it, a family talks openly about their son's boyfriend. At the end, the mother says to the young man: " It's OK, son. You'll find a guy who deserves you - who'll use a condom".

Negative reaction

It's very probable that the boldness of the campaign will produce negative reactions from Brazilian society, which although it appears to be very liberal, still has strong links with the Catholic Church.

Just to give an idea, on one occasion a gay couple was withdrawn from a Brazilian soap opera due to the negative response they got from the public.

But the Health Ministry is not worried.

"We've got nothing to fear," Paulo Teixeira, coordinator for the Brazilian programme to combat Aids, told the BBC.

poster from the campaign
Infection rates are highest among young homosexuals
"The campaign is very well produced, and there are clear objectives. The justification is the guarantee of health, which is the responsibility of this Ministry.

The campaign is meant to guarantee the legal human right to health."

The idea of adverts aimed specifically at the male homosexual community arose after a study carried out by the Brazilian Health Ministry showed that Aids cases were rising again among young homosexuals and male bisexuals.

In 1996 4,147 cases of the disease were registered among this specific group. Last year there were 5,400 cases.

Global leader

The rate of growth was highest among young homosexuals. Among those aged between 15 and 24, the increase was 8.7%.

The Brazilian Health Ministry also confirmed that men who have sex with other men have an 11 times greater risk of catching the Aids virus, compared to men who only have sex with women.

Respecting differences is as important as using condoms

Paulo Teixeira, Brazilian Health Ministry
Brazil is held up as a global example in respect of its programme for the free distribution of medicines for people with the HIV virus.

The new campaign intends not only to encourage the use of condoms but also to get rid of prejudice.

"Respecting differences is as important as using condoms," says Paulo Teixeira.

The timing of the launch of the campaign is also promising.

Next week, is Valentine's Day in Brazil, and the Health Ministry is attempting to show that gay couples are an integral part of Brazilian society.

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