February 12, 2007 / 1:44 PM / 13 years ago

Brazil hands out free condoms ahead of Carnival

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - As millions of revelers across Brazil prepare for Carnival festivities, the country’s health ministry began on Sunday its yearly safe-sex campaign and the distribution of free condoms.

The government will distribute 10 million free condoms in addition to the 15 million already sent to states in January in preparation for Carnival, which begins next Saturday and lasts for five days. The radio and television advertising began on Sunday with the official slogan “With condoms, the good feeling goes on after the party is over.”

“This slogan isn’t just a carnival message, it’s so that people are aware that with prevention they can have continued fun after Carnival,” Health Minister Agenor Alvares told journalists.

The campaign was launched in the famed Mangueira samba school in Rio de Janeiro, amid criticism from Catholic bishops against the distribution and church opposition to a government move to install condom machines in public schools. Brazil is the world’s largest Catholic country with some 150 million Catholics.

The safe sex campaign is part of Brazil’s AIDS prevention program, which also offers free medicine for patients and costs the government 1.4 billion reais ($663.8 million) a year.

Alvares said the government’s program to install condom machines in public schools in 2008 has received support from parents, students and teachers.

Cardinal Geraldo Majella, head of Brazil’s Catholic Bishops Council, condemned the machines on Friday.

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