An Advertising Campaign to Combat AIDS Spread?

While driving to Salt Lake City the other day, I noticed several interesting billboards along the highway. They all had the same words: “Say No to Drugs!” I have recently read similar advertisements in the evening newspaper. They are aimed at teenagers and read “Be Cool. Don’t Do Drugs!"

I think those trying to combat the drugs problems nationwide and in our own communities are to be commended. Their efforts to use the media and other educational means as a preventive measure for drug abuse are to be applauded.

As most people know by now, we also face another serious problem not only in the nation but right here in our own communities. That problem is AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), a serious concern because it is a disease killing many people. Fifty-seven cases have been diagnosed in Utah.

Some believe that AIDS may become a nationwide epidemic by 1991. Within the next four years it is estimated that 270,000 individuals in the United States will have the disease. At the present rate of mortality of AIDS victims, approximately 179,000 will have died of the disease by 1991.

Obviously, many health professionals believe the number and rate of those afflicted with AIDS will increase. Since 1977, 29,000 cases have been diagnosed. Approximately 17,000 have died as a result of the disease. About 374 new cases of AIDS are diagnosed each week in the U.S., and 220 are expected to die.

We should not think that AIDS is a disease that only afflicts those with same gender attraction. About 1,100 cases of AIDS have been detected because of same gender sexual activity. By 1991 it is anticipated the number will increase to 7,000 many of whom will also die.

Much is currently being done to control and, hopefully in the future, cure AIDS. A great deal of time, money, and effort is going to research, education about, and treatment of AIDS. Like those dealing with the drug problems, health officials are using the media to try and educate and hopefully prevent the spread of the dreaded AIDS disease.

The fear of the deadly AIDS disease is evoking some interesting behavior from many people. AIDS was the topic of discussion on a recent Phil Donahue Show. Students at Dartmouth College, it was noted, now receive instruction in their registration packets on how to have “safe sex” at college. The Dartmouth College Health Center also provides various devices and instructions to assist students in having “safe sex” while attending college. The rationale? An estimated 70-80 percent of college students nationwide are sexually active.

On the same Donahue program, there was a panel of concerned health officials responding to questions from the audience. The question of “safe sex” kept coming up. One physician noted that the only absolute way to have “safe sex” today was for two people to abstain from any sexual relations before marriage and then not to have any sexual contacts with any other individuals afterward.

The doctor went on, however, to point out that this approach was unrealistic with the prominence of premarital sex and now the frequent number of “extra” sexual contacts people have after marriage. He did acknowledge, however, that abstinence before marriage was one alternative to the prevention of AIDS. As such, he said, it should be considered and taught.

As the “only absolute” alternative to AIDS prevention, should sexual abstinence before marriage be given more consideration? Should the health professionals dealing with the AIDS crisis take a cue from those trying to combat drug abuse? What if there were numerous billboards along the highways and frequent advertisements in magazines and newspapers. The wording might be something like this:

“Say No to Sex Before Marriage!” Or, “Sex Before Marriage? Be Cool. Don’t Do It.”

Would such an advertising campaign change the way we think and act sexually in the United States? Probably not. Particularly with the sophisticated college population. But then again . . . it just might. Who knows?

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