Health News

How billboards are helping South Mississippians prevent HIV

The Safety: Delivered campaign, sponsored by the Aids Services Coalition of Hattiesburg, is mail-service that delivers free condoms to the doorsteps of Mississippi residents.
The Safety: Delivered campaign, sponsored by the Aids Services Coalition of Hattiesburg, is mail-service that delivers free condoms to the doorsteps of Mississippi residents. kranderson@sunherald.com

If you live in Mississippi, there’s a totally free way to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and it’s delivered to your doorstep.

People who drive on U.S. 49 in Gulfport, on Pass Road in Gulfport or on U.S. 90 in Bay St. Louis may have noticed new billboards with images of three condom packets. The billboards went up after Thanksgiving, part of a campaign to promote safe sex throughout the state, said Kathy Garner, executive director of the Hattiesburg-based AIDS Services Coalition.

With help from the state, the AIDS Services Coalition developed the “Safety: Delivered” campaign. The program lets people go to the ASC website, complete a two-step process and receive 20 condoms in confidential packaging by mail.

Garner said it usually takes about one or two weeks for the condoms to be delivered. She said demographic information is required in the process, but if people aren’t comfortable giving their names, they can put whatever they want in that field.

The main goal, she said, is to get the condoms into the hands of Mississippians.

“For several years, we had been doing a very small condom-delivery service through our organization,” she said. “Through the state, we were able to require a donation of condoms and it really is the best way for many people to protect themselves from HIV and other STDs.”

The ASC teamed up with Lamar Advertising, which has the billboards. Most of the 22 boards are in highly populated areas and places that have a high HIV rate, Garner said.

“Harrison County usually ranks second or third in the rate of new (HIV) infections in the state each year,” she said. Many of the billboards are on the Coast, Hattiesburg and Jackson, but she said they put some in rural areas to reach people who may not have the transportation or the money to buy condoms.

“If they have a computer, they can request condoms and we send them free of charge, because we want people to be safe,” she said.

In December, the ASC shipped 245 orders out to Mississippi addresses. Garner said that’s about 5,000 condoms.

The ASC gives out 75,000 condoms annually, she said.

Justin Mitchell: 228-604-0705, @Journalism_J

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