Surgeon Gen. C. Everett Koop told a House panel today he believes network television advertising of condoms would help prevent the spread of AIDS.
Koop did not mention condom advertising in his prepared presentation to the health and environment subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but supported it when asked by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), the panel chairman.
"The threat of AIDS is so great that it overwhelms other considerations, and advertising, I think, therefore is necessary in reference to condoms and would have a positive public health value," Koop said.
Representatives of the networks will testify later in the hearing.
June E. Osborn, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan, followed Koop and said the use of condoms to prevent the spread of acquired immune deficiency syndrome "stands out as a realistic strategy of great importance and we should be using all available media and avenues of communications to convey that important fact to the public."
She said AIDS "threatens a whole new generation of adolescents--among them possibly your children and mine--and soon no one in our society will be untouched by the pathos associated with this dreadful disease."
"Matters will get at least 10 times worse in the next five years, even if we do everything right and bring further spread of the virus under control," she said.
Under questioning, Koop acknowledged that condoms are not a foolproof means to prevent the spread of AIDS, just as they are not a foolproof contraceptive. But he added that, "with all the failures and drawbacks, it's the only thing we have in the way of a barrier."
He said he envisioned condom advertising that would promote health, not sex, and said that it would be helpful to structure some ads to appeal to specific groups at risk.
For example, he said that 25% of AIDS cases are among blacks, although they make up only 12% of the population, and that 14% of the cases are among Latinos, although they make up only 6% of the population.
Koop said he will be meeting with major condom manufacturers in an effort to encourage appropriate approaches.