The British government launched an explicit advertising campaign on Monday as part of a drive to reduce the rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Radio advertisements warn of the risk of developing genital warts, and spoof Valentine cards are being distributed in clubs, student unions and other social haunts of young people.
One of the cards shows a pink teddy bear with its face twisted in pain and the message: ‘I love you so much it hurts … when I pee.â€
Another has a couple in a romantic sunset beach scene with rhyming verse: ‘Oh Valentine, since you came to me you’re always in my thoughts, I’ll never forget the night we met and you gave me genital warts.â€
Ads featured in tabloid newspapers, and radio adverts running after 9pm on independent stations are testing the boundaries of taste, even though they have been passed by the radio advertising clearance centre.
One 50-second advertisement asks: ‘Which of 25 sexually transmitted infections could Cupid bring you tonight? Genital warts … Yes, this Valentine’s, don’t forget those three little words, human papilloma virus. Surprise your loved one with cauliflower lumps on your genitals. And warts this? They could spread to your bottom and scrotum. Have them cut off, but they may not leave you for good. It’s perfect for incurable romantics — an incurable virus. You can be together for ever.â€
The campaign is also supported by a sexual health hotline and a new website, www.playingsafely.co.uk.
The latest stage of the Â£4-million ‘sex lotteryâ€ campaign aimed at jolting sexually active 18- to 30-year-olds out of complacency was justified by Melanie Johnson, the Public Health Minister, as ‘targeting those most at risk by using thought-provoking language and direct languageâ€.
In the past 10 years, new sexually transmitted infections in England have more than doubled, to nearly 1,5-million a year. ‘We have a problem of growing seriousness,â€ said Johnson. —