When it comes to safe sex, one AIDS organization believes that size matters.
In what might be considered a sign of the times, a hard-to-miss, extra-large condom is visible to anyone traveling south on Interstate 95 in Fort Lauderdale between Oakland Park and Sunrise boulevards. The billboard, sponsored by the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, went up May 17. The advertising campaign is expected to wrap up in mid-July.
At the bottom of the prophylactic image is a web address, useacondom.com, which directs people to the foundation's website, where information about free condoms and HIV testing are available.
The group says a giant message is needed to address a giant problem in Broward County: sexually transmitted diseases. The area has some of the highest rates of HIV and syphilis in the United States, especially among gay men.
"We feel like we need to bring safer sex more to the forefront and de-stigmatize and de-sensationalize condoms and make them just like Q-tips or other products," said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS group. "We've really seen a diminishing use of condoms in recent years as people are less afraid of HIV than they were previously."
The eye-catching display rotates every few seconds with other unrelated ads. This is the first ad of its kind in South Florida, say leaders of the foundation. Two similar billboards have been on display in L.A., but condom displays are not allowed on billboards in many parts of the country, they said.
Group leaders say they have gotten a few complaints from parents and clergy who think the images are inappropriate for young children. But the foundation argues the public health message outweighs any awkward conversations parents may have with children.
"The big problem in this country is we are moralistic in our attitudes and hedonistic in our behaviors, which is why we have higher rates of STDs than other developed countries." Weinstein said.