It's a truth universally acknowledged that sex sells. But safer sex?

Talking about sex at an AIDS conference usually involves highly technical diagrams and scientific explanations that strip away the layers of desire, intimacy and emotion, reducing the act to a cold, clinical affair.

But not in Mexico City, where the programme for the 2008 International AIDS Conference reads like a "how to" on embracing your sexuality.

Tired of your sex life? Why not visit the Global Village this week and find out how you can have a "sexy life"?

Shy in bed? Get empowered by watching a riveting theatrical performance from Kenya, titled "I'm Sexy Too!"

Or take back your sexuality by visiting the vaginal wall exhibition and workshop.

Even the main conference sessions are getting in on the act, with researchers presenting papers on the "dreams and desires" of HIV-positive men and women, the effects of male circumcision on sexual satisfaction, and the sexual agency of young women.

It is finally hitting home that while major progress has been made in treating HIV-positive people, the same can't be said of prevention efforts. UNAIDS has estimated that for every two patients placed on antiretrovirals (ARVs) in 2007, five new infections occurred.

Repeated calls have been made for new prevention approaches, in fact, some delegates at the conference have been heard complaining of "prevention fatigue". So perhaps it's the perfect the time to start looking at the role of sexual pleasure and desire.

After all, people have sex for various reasons: some are coerced into it, some do it to survive, and others because they want to have children. Until recently, HIV prevention researchers have tended to overlook another major reason - people have sex for pleasure.

But can safer sex, usually involving condoms, be good sex? Yes - with a little education. Prevention programmes tend to assume that safe sex is easy or obvious, and fail to teach people how to do it, or show them how to use condoms in sexy ways.

Wendy Knerr from the Pleasure Project, an initiative working to make safer sex pleasurable, told delegates that "just telling people to use condoms is like telling someone to use a saddle to ride a horse - there's a lot more to both safe sex and horse riding."

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