January 28, 2008 / 1:51 PM / 11 years ago

Don't stop Brazil Carnival but be careful: Lula

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - As Brazilians get ready for their annual Carnival celebrations, the government is urging them to practice safe sex and avoid drinking too much.

Revellers participate in an afternoon parade in Ipanema neighborhood during a pre-carnival event in Rio de Janeiro January 26, 2008. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

“Everybody has the right to have fun and enjoy themselves but it is important to remember that the next week we have to work and look after our families,” President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Monday.

The government also started handing out millions of free condoms at the weekend as part of its campaign to combat AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases during Carnival.

Five days of frenzied festivities kick off on Friday, with the biggest parties in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Recife.

Latin America’s largest country stops work and indulges in a riot of drinking, dancing and parades accompanied by often licentious behavior.

Lula appealed in his weekly radio address for people to be careful during the partying.

“No one needs to drink or do anything more than normal to enjoy themselves,” he said.

Lula is known as a gregarious character who himself enjoys a drink. His dour warning appeared to be partly prompted by a rise in deaths and accidents from drunken driving during the Christmas holidays.

The Health Ministry launched its annual safe sex campaign on Sunday under the slogan “Good in bed means wearing a condom.”

“We have to let people know the importance of prevention,” Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao said at an event in Rio.

States and municipalities in the world’s largest Roman Catholic country will distribute 19.5 million free condoms for Carnival.

An education program will focus on alerting young women to the dangers of unprotected sex and encourage them to demand that their partners wear condoms.

Thousands of bandanas and temporary tattoos with safe sex slogans will also be handed out to revelers in the big cities.

Recife city also plans to distribute morning-after contraceptive pills — a move that has angered the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy.

The church opposes Brazil’s much lauded anti-AIDS campaign on the grounds that it promotes contraception.

Bishop Antonio Augusto Dias Duarte of the National Bishops Conference of Brazil said last week that while the church was not against people having fun in Carnival, the morning-after pill and condom campaign “will only serve to diminish inhibitions and encourage orgiastic behavior.”

Editing by Mohammad Zargham

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