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Controversial safe sex campaign returns in Queensland

A safe sex campaign that was pulled down after complaints from Christians and then reinstated will return in the Australian state of Queensland from this month
Last year's Rip & Roll advert

A controversial safe-sex campaign targeting gay men has returned in the Australian state of Queensland a year after it was removed from billboards and bus shelters following an orchestrated campaign against it by Christian activists.

The Rip & Roll campaign resulted in 222 complaints, making it the most complained about advertisement in Australia in 2011, after the far-right Australian Christian Lobby urged its members to complain about it.

Advertising company Adshel initially removed the campaign’s posters, which showed two clothed men embracing and a condom packet, from billboards and bus shelters but reinstated them after a public backlash in support of the campaign, with 90,000 people joining a Facebook page in support of the campaign.

‘Healthy Communities is proud to continue a 28 year tradition of promoting safe sex and condom use among gay men, our target population, based on peer education and a sex positive approach,’ Queensland Association for Healthy Communities executive director Paul Martin said.

‘Campaigns that promote fear, guilt or blame only serve to turn gay men off safe sex messages, while campaigns that validate the lives of gay men and allow them to enjoy sex, safely, are the most effective.’

Posters for the campaign will appear in 35 bus shelters around inner-city Brisbane from August 12 and on billboards in Surfers Paradise, Townsville, Cairns, Capalaba and Albion.

Healthy Communities expects more complaints from the Australian Christian Lobby but is confident the campaign can go ahead following a ruling by the Australian Advertising Standards Bureau in support of last year’s campaign.

‘The Board is strongly in favor of the important health message this advertisement portrays and considered that whilst some members of the community would prefer not to see this issue advertised, the public health message overrides any social sensitivity,’ the Bureau found.

‘The Board noted that the advertisement does not contain any nudity and considered that the image of the two men hugging was not sexualized and that the advertisement is very subtle in its handling of the issue of safe sex. The Board considered that the overall tone of the advertisement is clearly that of a medical issue and not of a sexual issue.’

Healthy Communities is Queensland’s only LGBT community health organization and is going forward with the campaign despite being stripped of $2.5 million in funding from the new conservative Queensland state government.

The organization is seeking other sources of fundraising but has already had to make a number of staff redundant.

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