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Utah governor halts free condom program over ‘use of sexual innuendo’

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) halted a free condom program over its “use of sexual innuendo” in its branding.

The condom distribution campaign that began sending out 100,000 condoms last month was part of the state’s federally funded HIV awareness campaign, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. But the governor stopped the effort because the condoms used suggestive language to advocate for safe sex. 

The covers were decorated in state-themed slogans, including “SL,UT” for Salt Lake City, Utah; “Enjoy your Mountin’” over the picture of a mountain and “This is the Place” over the image of a bed. 

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Herbert’s office released a statement obtained by The Hill saying the governor “understands the importance” of the campaign about HIV prevention.

“He does not, however, approve the use of sexual innuendo as part of a taxpayer-funded campaign, and our office has asked the department to rework the campaign’s branding,” the statement said.

Utah’s Department of Health issued an apology after the governor’s decision, calling the packaging “offensive.”

“The designs did not go through necessary approval channels and we have asked our partners to stop distributing them immediately,” the department posted on Twitter.

“We regret the lewd nature of the branding,” another tweet from the department said. “We remain committed to running a campaign to help in the prevention of HIV and intend to do so in a manner that better respects taxpayer dollars, and our role as a government agency.”

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Eric Fratto of the Utah Department of Health’s Prevention Treatment and Care Program previously told the Tribune the goal of the entire campaign was to “destigmatize HIV,” a precursor to AIDS, in the state and encourage conversations about sexual health.

“If the condoms are fun, relatable, sex positive — people are more apt to talk about them, which we’ve already seen,” he said.

The condoms, which were designed by Love Communications under a federal health grant contract, were to be given out at the state’s 13 local health departments, the University of Utah, the Utah AIDS Foundation and various community groups, according to the Tribune. 

The wrappers were similar to those distributed in Wyoming and Alaska for separate campaigns, which both included one labeled “Drill Safely” with an oil rig pictured. 

“The H is for Human” campaign was designed to promote HIV awareness through creating a website titled HIVandME.com designed to provide information and resources to those diagnosed, those at risk and those helping others diagnosed. Officials told the newspaper one diagnosis of HIV happens every three days.

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