November 22, 2007 / 5:16 PM / 12 years ago

AIDS ad breaks Italy taboo over using word "condom"

ROME (Reuters) - The word “condom” is to be uttered for the first time in an advertisement to raise AIDS awareness in Italy, breaking a bizarre taboo in the Catholic country.

Since the spread of HIV/AIDS started in the 1980s, the Italian government has run health campaigns about the disease, some of which have featured pictures of condoms.

But they have always omitted using the “C” word.

Movie director Francesca Archibugi, filming the TV advert at a pharmacy in Rome’s Fiumicino airport on Thursday, described the new advert as “a triumph against taboo”.

The Catholic Church equates promotion of condoms to fostering immoral and hedonistic lifestyles.

The prudish treatment of the word contrasts with the risque nature of Italian advertising and media, where gameshows and adverts routinely make sexual references, or feature scantily clad women, often for purely decorative effective.

Although the sale of condoms is far more widespread in Italy than many other parts of Europe — they can, for example be bought from street vending machines — slogans until now have been restricted to phrases such as: “Protect your love!”.

Archibugi’s campaign is unlikely to impress the Vatican, which teaches that fidelity within heterosexual marriage, chastity and abstinence are the best ways to combat AIDS.

The director, famed in Italy for films such films as “Shooting the Moon”, said it was important to get the message across in Italy where there 4,000 people every year are infected with HIV/AIDS.

“The true dangers are never talked about - there’s a moralistic facade which, when uncovered, reveals great ignorance”.

Reporting by Liz Rusbridger; Editing by Elisabeth O'Leary

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