Safer at Home: Exploring the ONE Archives Collection

Week 11 (July 6, 2020)

The poster collection at the ONE Archives includes many examples, of campaigns funded by different agencies and aimed at different viewers but all promoting condom use during the AIDS epidemic.The research is clear that abstinence is 100% effective in preventing AIDS, but impossible to implement as a universal public health strategy. These campaigns promoted the next best thing—condoms as a form of harm reduction or risk mitigation. They showed individuals how to still engage in sexual intercourse but almost entirely reduce the risk of transmission. Their aim was to make condom use widespread and accepted through education. Destigmatizing condom usage through consistent, direct, and varied messages was essential. The posters were clever, catchy, and appealing. Using humor and appeals to common sense, they raised awareness and promoted safer behavior. 

Replace the condom with a mask and references to AIDS with COVID and these messages work as well today as they did in the late 80’s and 90’s. Then and now, risk reduction is essential to creating a safe environment. Wearing protection is not just about protecting oneself but also others. Neither mask or condom do any good if worn incorrectly, kept in one’s pocket, or not used at all. Though the act of wearing a condom or a mask is simple, getting compliance is challenging. The number of these posters shows the amount of messaging and educating required to change behavior—a reminder especially apt at a moment when the number of cases of COVID in the state of California is rising to new heights each day. 


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