Condom ads made their first officially-endorsed appearance in China on Tuesday. The pioneering 30-second commercial, shown on the national China Central Television (CCTV) network, aims to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS.
In the ad, a woman says she feels safe because she uses a condom when she has sex with her boyfriend. It is being screened ahead of World HIV/AIDS Day, which falls on Monday in China.
Condom advertisements have been banned in the past in China.
In 1998, a commercial condom ad appeared on buses in South China's Guangzhou, and in 1999, a public interest condom ad once appeared on CCTV.
However, both were removed after they attracted criticism from residents and were deemed in breach of regulations.
According to these regulations, ads related to sex or obscenity are banned or restricted.
However, the authorities have begun to relax the ban, accepting that condoms help prevent diseases and should not be simply regarded as a sex product. Sexually-transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS are spreading quickly across the country through unsafe sexual contact.
In October 2002, some departments under the central government, such as the Ministry of Health, decided that condom brands could advertise their role in HIV/AIDS prevention in designated media.
China has 840,000 HIV/AIDS sufferers, including 80,000 AIDS patients, according to the latest Ministry of Health estimates.
Unsafe sex has become a major cause of HIV transmission, accounting for about 10 per cent of cases. And this percentage is expected to grow in the future, experts said.
"It is not a surprise for me to see such advertisements on television now because I have become aware of condoms' functions in HIV prevention through many other channels such as news reports in recent years,'' Wang Xiaoming, a young businessman based in Beijing, said.
However, Jiang Qili, a young farmer in the poverty-stricken county of Junan in East China's Shandong Province, told China Daily in a telephone interview he had not seen the advertisements. It was unlikely he would notice such a short advertisement in so many TV programmes, especially since he had little time to watch TV, he said.
Jiang said he knew little about HIV/AIDS prevention because he had never heard about it on TV, which is a major source of information in rural areas. And he has almost no other way of learning about it because he rarely reads newspapers or books that cover such a topic.
A single public ad seems to fall far short of the education needs of China's rural areas, which are home to 900 million residents and about 80 per cent of the country's HIV/AIDS sufferers.
(People's Daily November 29, 2003)