Utah governor shuts down HIV awareness campaign that used ‘lewd,’ state-themed condom packaging

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV/CNN) - The Utah Department of Health has apologized for the “offensive packaging” on state-themed condoms they were handing out for HIV awareness after the governor told them to stop distribution.

Part of the HIV awareness campaign included distributing “sex-positive and fun condoms” that came in cardboard holders with “Utah specific euphemisms.” (Source: KUTV/CNN)

Launched Monday, a UDOH campaign called “The H is For Human” focuses on raising HIV awareness and includes a new website, HIVandMe.com.

Part of the campaign included distributing “sex-positive and fun condoms” that came in cardboard holders with “Utah specific euphemisms.”

A few of the packages read: “Greatest Sex on Earth,” “Explore Utah’s Caves,” “Enjoy your Mountin’” and “SL, UT.”

"We needed to have something that was provocative, yet thought-provoking and fun, something that makes people chuckle and pick it up,” said Michael Sanders, an activist with the Utah AIDS Foundation and member of UDOH’s special HIV awareness committee.

However, volunteers say they received notice Wednesday from Republican Gov. Gary Herbert’s office to stop handing out the condoms. A statement said Herbert understands the importance of education about HIV prevention but does not “approve the use of sexual innuendo as part of a taxpayer-funded campaign.”

The UDOH has been asked to rework the campaign’s branding, specifically the messages on the condom packages. The department apologized for the “offensive packaging” of the condoms in a statement Wednesday night.

"The designs did not go through necessary approval channels and we have asked our partners to stop distributing them immediately. We regret the lewd nature of the branding. 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,” read the statement.

The department says the campaign was inspired by similar successful campaigns in the region, specifically in Alaska and Wyoming. It was funded with federal grant money.

The campaign also includes local public outreach efforts on the website HIVandMe.com, as well as billboards, TV and radio commercials and social media messages.

All of the information distributed is aimed at providing resources and support for those living with HIV, those at risk for the disease or people trying to support a friend or family member living with the infection.

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