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Selling ‘safe sex’

The Story

AIDS is killing people from all walks of life, not just gays, drug users and Haitians. Problem is, most Canadian heterosexuals don't know it -- even though 19 of them already have the disease. Sex is something you don't talk about on television or in schools. Now it's a matter of life and death, and health officials have an urgent new message for all Canadians: "safe sex." It's a difficult message to convey when even the word "condom" is taboo.

Medium: Television
Program: Midday
Broadcast Date: Jan. 27, 1987
Guest(s): Lorrie Rose, Sissy Von Dane, Leslie Wagman
Reporter: Doug James
Duration: 11:04

Did You know?

• Most broadcasters, including the CBC, initially refused to run ads that showed or mentioned condoms because they were "too controversial." In 1987 CBC Vice President Sheelagh Whittaker agreed to show ads that met "the ethical standards of our audience."

• Television ads for condoms debuted in Canada in February of 1987, but broadcasters didn't allow them on American television until 1992, and then only on the Fox Broadcasting Co. network. The Canadian ads had to emphasize prevention of sexually transmitted diseases rather than pregnancy prevention.

• Also in February of 1987, two major convenience store chains agreed to start selling condoms on a trial basis (7-11 stores in Vancouver, and Mac's stores across Canada.) Until then condoms were generally only available at pharmacies.
• Many Canadian church officials fought the move to promote condom use. Roman Catholic Rev. William Mendenhall said it promotes "promiscuous sex" and teaches the moral lesson "if it is safe, it is OK."

• The invention of safer-sex guidelines was the first victory in the fight against AIDS and has reduced the spread of AIDS in North America, Western Europe and Japan. But in many developing countries, discussion of sex is still taboo, condoms are expensive and women have little control over their sex lives. Many countries do not have the health budget to combat the epidemic.


The Early Years of the AIDS Crisis more