State health officials are distributing condoms with suggestive Utah-themed packaging as part of a new HIV awareness campaign.
The wrappers riff on various Utah memes, with labels such as “Greatest Sex on Earth,” “SL,UT,” an image of a highway sign that displays the number of miles to towns “Fillmore” and “Beaver,” and “This is the Place” over a drawing of a bed.
“It’s really just to destigmatize HIV in Utah, and get everybody talking about sexual health,” said Erin Fratto, of the Utah Department of Health’s Prevention Treatment and Care Program, in an interview. “If the condoms are fun, relatable, sex positive — people are more apt to talk about them, which we’ve already seen.”
The state began distributing the 100,000 condoms earlier this month as part of “The H is for Human” campaign for HIV awareness. HIV, a precursor of AIDS, is less prevalent than it once was in Utah but is not gone; there is one case of HIV diagnosed in the state every three days, or about 120 new infections diagnosed each year, officials said.
The awareness campaign will include billboards, commercials and social media posts promoting a new website, HIVandME.com. The site offers information, resources and support for those living with HIV, those at risk for HIV, or people trying to support someone living with the infection, officials said.
Jared Hafen, programming director at the Utah AIDS Foundation, said he thinks the campaign will be successful because it’s the first HIV messaging to be rolled out statewide, not just in a specific area, and because it’s targeting a more diverse population through billboards and radio ads.
And the bawdy condoms — he thinks those will help, too.
Hafen acknowledged that people who use condoms will continue to use them, and those who don’t, may still not. But, he said, “I think it will make more people apt to look into it. It’ll catch their eye.”
The state consulted with the AIDS Foundation in creating the campaign, he said.
The new state website has information about local clinics, prevention methods (including PrEP or PEP medications), testing, treatment and other resources. The goal is to help Utahns better understand the prevalence of HIV and clarify myths and stereotypes.
State health officials believe the campaign and the site will save lives, Fratto said in an earlier statement.
“We can end the HIV epidemic in Utah,” Fratto said. “With improved science and medicine, we can prevent new HIV infections and ensure those living with HIV live healthy and long lives.”
The Tribune will update this developing story.
Reporter Paighten Harkins contributed to this report.
This content was originally published here.