Puerto Rico scraps pandemic safe sex campaign amid criticism
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico’s Health Department unveiled a safe sex campaign Tuesday recommending masturbation as a way to avoid becoming infected with the coronavirus, but scrapped the whole thing within hours under heavy criticism from the U.S. territory’s conservative society.
The department erased its message soon after comment on the campaign went viral on social media, and the retreat drew new criticism for the agency from some health experts who said such campaigns are needed as coronavirus cases keep growing on the island.
“Although our only intention is to educate and prevent, the publication was offensive to some sectors of the population,” the Health Department said in a statement. It said it didn’t want the message to be lost by distractions.
The Health Department said in its statement all information it posts has been validated by health experts and epidemiologists.
The island of 3.2 million people has reported more than 32,400 confirmed cases of coronavirus infections, and more than 800 deaths from COVID-19.
Safe sex campaigns are rare in Latin America.
Part of Puerto Rico’s campaign featured a thumb in the center of half a grapefruit and stated that masturbation is the safest sexual activity during the pandemic. It also recommended that people wash their hands and their sex toys. Another campaign urged people to avoid sexual contact with anyone who isn’t living with them.
Mónica Feliú-Mójer, a spokeswoman for CienciaPR, a nonprofit group that represents Puerto Rican scientists, said that while the advice is sound, the campaign surprised her.
“In principle, it seems like a good idea,” she said in a phone interview. But, she added: “It seems they didn’t anticipate there was going to be this backlash when Puerto Rico is truly very conservative regarding these issues.”