LONDON - A sexually provocative HIV online awareness campaign created by the BBC, starring 'GI Jonny' and 'Captain Bareback', is under fire from pressure groups, which have slammed it as disgusting and degrading.
The campaign includes a viral video charting the adventures of Action Man-like hero GI Jonny, who leads the fight against the ignorance of HIV and AIDS, rescuing the hapless Mimsy from the clutches of Captain Bareback.
The BBC has launched the campaign to raise awareness among 16- to 34-year-olds of the risks of contracting HIV through unprotected sex. It has also created a Facebook application, which offers users their very own customisable GI Jonny character.
The first film, in a series of tongue-in-cheek sketches available for download from a specially created site, sees Jonny use his "protector shield" to deflect the foam from Captain Bareback's "crotch cannon". The hero manages to beat off his enemy using his powerful "fisting action" and by spying on the Commando Bandits' using his magic brass eye.
GI Jonny has been developed in partnership with HIV and sexual health charity Terence Higgins Trust. Durex also supported the campaign by providing 150,000 free condoms, which are being distributed at events throughout the UK.
A spokeswoman for the Terrence Higgins Trust said that new ways of getting safer sex messages to young people were needed and that viral videos can be very effective at getting serious messages across.
The campaign is being promoted via BBC TV and radio programming. The series of films also direct viewers to an interactive website, where they can find out more about HIV and AIDS and customise their own GI Jonny virtual action figure. Their own creation can then be forwarded to friends and downloaded to Facebook.
The BBC is currently broadcasting a two-part documentary starring Stephen Fry, called 'HIV & Me'. The second and final episode airs this evening on BBC Two at 9pm.
However, the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations called the viral "disgusting" and said it was a poor use of licence payers' money.
Right-wing pressure group Media Watch UK, said the viral was "degrading to women" and "encourages casual sex".