Safe sex for closet readers

October 26, 1995

The quality of the writing on the back of lavatory doors in Scottish seats of learning is about to improve dramatically.

Posters bearing arresting extracts from contemporary fiction, including The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis, Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh and Foreign Parts by Janice Galloway, will confront a captive student audience at 16 colleges and universities.

Diverse as the authors are, the extracts all cover the same theme - safer sex. The posters have been produced by the Health Education Board Scotland, whose head of public affairs, Martin Raymond, said they were designed to catch people's attention in a quiet moment.

"We hope that this novel approach will stimulate young people to be more open and honest with each other about safer sex, condoms and previous partners."

The latest Aids figures for Scotland revealed a further rise, he said, and young people, many adjusting to being away from home for the first time, could all too easily find themselves in a situation where their health was at risk.

"Condoms help protect against a range of sexually transmitted infections, including herpes and chlamydia as well as HIV. They also reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy."

Recent research indicated that young people were reticent about discussing condoms, and that, even in longer term relationships, they often knew little or nothing about possible previous partners.

As well as highlighting the health benefits of condoms, the posters give practical advice, as this excerpt from The Rachel Papers demonstrates: "I held it up accusingly. 'Just how, just how are you supposed to get these things on.' Rachel took a look. 'Oh, baby,' she said. 'You don't undo it first.'"

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