You may have seen an image from one of the most sexually charged HIV prevention campaigns over the years, but you might not know much about the organisation behind it, so I figured this would be a good opportunity to introduce you to AIDES and show you a few of the most provocative sexual health campaigns they have released over the years. The particular campaign (or as they say in France “campagne”) I am referring to depicts a sexy man having sexual intercourse with a scorpion, and even though this image is meant to deter people from engaging in risky sex, some people have found the imagery from this campaign to be extremely appealing and exciting.
French community-based non-profit organisation AIDES was founded in 1984 by Daniel Defert, after his partner Michel Foucault died from HIV/AIDS related issues. The name is a reference to the French noun “aide”, which means to help or assist, but the founder chose to pluralise the word, because he wanted the word to represent the multiple types of help his organisation provides to the community. The word is also closely aligned to AIDS to acknowledge the organisation’s goal of bringing people living with HIV/AIDS together with their loved ones and to defend the rights of people and communities affected by HIV/AIDS.
AIDES is an organisation that provides male and female condoms to those who want them, releases campaigns on television, has syringe exchange programs, provides home help, publishes French AIDS related magazine Remaides, offers legal advice to HIV-positive people and has a free information service phone line. The organisation uses agencies to help them get their campaign messages into the public arena, with one powerful AIDS awareness cartoon produced by Goodby, Silverstein and Partners featuring the sexual adventures of a cat named “Smutley”, which ends with an extremely powerful message that says “He has nine lives. You only have one. Protect yourself.”
The 2005 campaign involved a naked man having what was implied to be sexual intercourse with a scorpion. The position of the claws and stinger make it clear that this man is about to become infected with HIV, with the stinger designed to release poison into its victim, with the poison in this case being HIV. The text accompanying this campaign says “Without a condom you’re sleeping with AIDS. Protect yourself.”
Smutley the cat is a fictional character set in a 1920s time period, who is a sex-crazed feline that humps just about everything in sight, without using any protection or seeking consent from those he shows a sexual interest in. If you watch the video from this campaign, you will see that he’s happy to penetrate a variety of different species through a really well executed piece of advertising.
With an image of two naked men sitting at a table removing peas from their pods, along with the words “No Condom. No Sex.”, this campaign shows the men staring at each other intensely. In the video version of this campaign, you see a growing number of empty seed pods to the side of each man, with the peas emptying out on the surface of the table in front of them.
The theme for the 2016 campaign was ‘Colours of Love’ with the message being “Make Love Not War – Blend Together. Safe Together”. This is a very artistic piece and the agency involved with this campaign put together superb work that captures your attention and helps you take notice of multiple messages, including sexual health and racism. You can also see the different paint colours, with green paint around the genitals of one guy and on the buttocks of another quickly drawing your attention to this part of the male anatomy.
With PrEP becoming more widely available, AIDES released a campaign called ‘PrEP for Love’ to make people more aware of the availability of PrEP throughout the country (and the world). As they have done with many of their campaigns, several versions of each campaign were created to suit a particular audience, whether it be homosexual, bisexual or heterosexual (to limit the sexuality to just a few).
I applaud AIDES for the extremely interesting sexual health campaigns they have released over the years and for their ongoing work with helping the HIV/AIDS community. Their website is vibrant and includes both English and French versions, although I wasn’t able to get the English version to work for me, but this can be achieved using a third-party service to translate each page into the preferred language. I did learn French in high school, but it was just a brief introduction to the language and I chose not to take up the subject full-time, which has put me at a disadvantage when it comes to fluently speaking the French language.
These are just a handful of the AIDES campaigns produced over the years, but there have been other ones created to educate and assist. The scorpion HIV/AIDS campaign is an image I have seen numerous times and I find it extremely appealing, as the scorpion resonates with me whenever I see it based on it being a symbol of positivity. There is also a straight version from the same campaign involving a woman and a spider, although I won’t include that imagery here, but it’s available on the web if you would like to take a look.
You might be wondering why I have chosen to include a safer sex article at a website about bug chasing and that’s because this website provides a mix of different articles relating to HIV/AIDS, which is a theme that is explored extensively here and the organisation this article is about primarily focuses on HIV/AIDS awareness. I have also seen bug chasers and gift givers sharing the scorpion image from this campaign through social media, so I wanted to share more information about where this image came from and some of the important work the AIDES organisation has done for the people of France and those abroad as well.
- AIDES Website – https://www.aides.org/en
- AIDES YouTube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/c/aides/videos
Featured Photo: AIDES / Wiki Commons
Article ID: CC033
Version Control: 1.0 – March 23, 2022: Original article published.