Government plans to increase sexual health adspend

LONDON - The government is planning to boost the budget for its campaign on sexual health after admitting there is widespread ignorance of the risks of not using a condom.

The Department of Health is considering a major campaign aimed at 18- to 30-year-olds in recognition of the fact that the impact of the "don't play the sex lottery" advertising, created by Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners, has been limited by an adspend of only £3m.

The move follows a report by the Health Protection Agency which warned that Britain faced an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases. STDs have reached record levels as the Government's "safe sex" message fades.

John Reid, the health secretary, may announce the new campaign in a white paper on public health this autumn. It will also give the Government's decision on whether to ban junk food commercials aimed at children.

The Government's options include extending the existing "sex lottery" campaign or calling a pitch for a new one with a much bigger advertising budget, in which case DLKW might secure a place on the shortlist.

The humorous DLKW campaign is still being analysed by the Government. Officials believe it had impact and scored reasonably well on awareness, but remain unsure as to whether it changed people's behaviour.

While ministers admit the latest figures show that public education must be improved, they are wary about using the "shock tactics" of a blunderbuss campaign such as the "iceberg" campaign on Aids awareness in the 80s. Many experts on sex education believe such a blitz would not work now.

"It is a very sensitive issue and must be handled with care," one government source said. "But there is a growing recognition that we have to consider a new approach."

Ministers believe a major campaign could save money in the long run. For example, the 140 per cent rise in the number of cases of chlamydia in the past six years is expected to place huge pressure on the NHS because it can cause infertility.

One possible advertising strategy would be to warn young people of such risks. "Prevention is the key," one government adviser said.

The new campaign is expected to continue DLKW's approach of targeting "at risk" groups in holiday resorts such as Ibiza, which is believed to have been a success.

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