Brazil began handing out a record 10 million condoms Monday to help stop the spread of HIV during Carnival, a time that sees an increase in casual sex. With the pre-Lenten festival less than two weeks away, the "Nothing gets past a condom" campaign focuses on the 14 million Brazilians--or 15% of those who are sexually active--who don't believe condoms prevent the spread of HIV. "Carnival is a time when there's a lot of contact, you've got people wearing very few clothes, which ends up stimulating more intense sexual relations," said health minister Humberto Costa as he handed out the first condoms of the campaign aimed at middle-class and poor Brazilian men between 18 and 39.
The promotion of condoms in this year's Carnival has upset Brazil's Catholic Church, which opposes the distribution of condoms by the nation's highly successful anti-AIDS program on the grounds that it promotes promiscuity. But Brazilian health authorities say it is imperative to urge safer sex to prevention HIV infections despite church opposition. "We respect all religions' positions; our concern is the health of the population," said Costa, after he played a radio jingle: "I'm the condom, my love / You can get into this without any sweat / Use me and abuse me / I'm the condom you can trust."