RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ Brazil's Health Ministry and a business organization are giving away 800,000 condoms for lovers' day _ June 12 _ the South American nation's version of Valentine's day.
Promoted as an effort to stop the spread of AIDS, the focus of the campaign are heterosexuals, who account for 43.5 percent of all new HIV infections in Brazil.
The Health Ministry wants to triple the number of condoms used in Brazil each year from a current 600 million, Paulo Teixeira, head of the government HIV/AIDS task force, said at the launch of the campaign in Sao Paulo.
The condoms are to be distributed between Saturday and Tuesday in cinemas, at newspaper stands and by companies associated with the National Business Council to Prevent HIV/AIDS, the group financing the campaign. These include the Globo media group, Brazil's Volkswagen unit and national air carrier Varig.
Brazil already distributes about 200 million free condoms a year.
The nation's aggressive AIDS prevention campaigns and a policy of distributing a cocktail of anti-AIDS drugs to HIV-infected Brazilians free of charge have helped to cut its number of AIDS-related deaths in half since 1995, according to the Ministry's Aids/HIV task force.
The country has 203,000 registered cases of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and an estimated 400,000 unreported cases. Both figures are the hemisphere's second highest in total numbers, after the United States.