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Tue, Feb 13, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Cupids give away free condoms

GROOVY, BABY The Center for Disease Control is distributing free condoms in coffee shops, with the hope of introducing condoms into people's everyday lives

By Chuang Chi-ting  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Center for Disease Control (疾病管制局) is using Feb. 14, Valentine's Day, as a focus for a promotion of a safe sex drive by giving away 11,000 condoms to coffee shop patrons. The promotion started yesterday.

The center said that over 95 percent of Taiwan AIDS sufferers contracted HIV, the virus which causes AIDS, through sexual contact with an infected person, proving that sexual activity is overwhelmingly the predominant cause of HIV transmission in Taiwan.

"Valentine's Day is both a most romantic and risky day," said Tu Hsing-che (涂醒哲), director-general of the center, while distributing condoms to cafe patrons yesterday.

Lin Sheue-jong (林雪蓉), deputy chief of the center's special disease division, said the center promoted safe sex before Valentine's Day because many may be struck by the holiday's spirit that day.

The center is also targeting Valentine's Day because, they say consumers have been swayed by corporate marketing into embracing the day as a day of passion. "People nowadays are more open to talk about sex-related issues, especially on this day," said Yong Shu-chen (楊淑真) from the center.

The center was inspired by the Thai experience, where officials have successfully blended the promotion of safe sex into ordinary people's lives. Tu said condoms were given to housewives shopping in Bangkok markets.

Lin said the center is cooperating with cafes because cafes have elegant images, which avoid condoms being associated with sleaze.

"We want people to understand that using condoms is something normal in daily life," Lin said.

Another reason for the center's targeting of cafe patrons is that most of them are young and middle aged, the two categories which have been found to be most sexually active and therefore at higher risk of contracting AIDS. Statistics indicate that 81.5 percent of 3,003 infected Taiwanese are aged from 15 to 44.

The center is planning further cooperation with food businesses to establish a theme restaurant featuring safe sex with condoms before the fall.

The center is also planning to contact Internet cafes frequented by teenagers for their video games, with a view to arranging a similar promotion in the future.

The center opened the event yesterday at the Taiwan flagship branch of Seattle Coffee in Taipei. The promotion is also running in all other 25 branches of Seattle Coffee in the country.

One reason why the flagship store was chosen was because of its location close to a red-light district. The center said that prostitutes in the neighborhood are known to visit the cafe.

Licensed prostitutes are also to cooperate with the center to promote condom use among sex workers.

Meanwhile, the center is also cooperating with non-government organizations that have working relationships with gay groups to help them to avoid the threat of AIDS. Workshops for these organizations will be given in March during an international conference about AIDS.

The center said 42.9 percent of Taiwanese citizens infected with HIV are heterosexuals, while 52.7 percent are bisexual or gay.

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