S’aimer, s’éclater, s’oublier. When a French public health agency takes risks in a campaign against AIDS”

“With a lover, with a friend, with a stranger” was what could be seen in 130 French cities in November 2016. Such slogans are part of an AIDS/STIs prevention campaign, called Sexosafe – led by Santé Publique France (SPF, the French Public National Agency) – which, because it is aimed at men who have sex with other men and because it is displayed in the public space, marks a break with previous campaigns. Posters, which were visible in bus shelters, shopping centers and in the press, triggered strong reactions, which we analyse according to documents produced by SPF as well as interviews with actors and actresses involved in the campaign. By retracing the course of Sexosafe, we show that these controversies mobilize classical repertoires of the right vs. left opposition by articulating the fight against homophobia and racism while at the same time translating competing definitions of the public space. More than the promotion of homosexuality, it is probably rather the suggestion to dissociate sexuality and conjugality that triggered so much reaction. By redesigning the links between sexuality, conjugality and friendship, new forms of solidarity are offered and expressed for all.  

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