A bold new campaign promoting safe sex between men to end the spread of HIV has "gone too far", say some.

The "Rules of a f***buddy" campaign is the latest from Ending HIV – a behaviour change programme run by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) to reach gay and bisexual men.

The f-word in the tagline has been made to appear like it's been covered with black masking tape.

An Auckland father spotted the new billboard en route to his child's school and was "absolutely stunned" by the language and imagery.

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The man, who did not want his name used, said he was in no way homophobic and would be just as shocked if it was promoting heterosexual sex.

"Don't get me wrong, I marched for law reform in the 1980s but this seems to be promoting casual sex, not preventing anything.

"Kids walk to school past this place and it's putting a very adult conversation in their face - it's pornographic."

The new campaign designed to stop the spread of HIV uses bold language and images. Photo / NZAF
The new campaign designed to stop the spread of HIV uses bold language and images. Photo / NZAF

The man was surprised by the placement of a billboard on a toilet block on Beresford Square, off Karangahape Rd.

"There's a church across the road and it's on a school route, I just don't think it's appropriate to have that language, they have done a poor job in covering it up."

But Joe Rich from the NZAF said the organisation would never shy away from tough conversations about sex and the billboards were put where they would be seen by the target market.

"K Rd is an interesting place and not every gay man is on Grindr or in gay bars so we have to have them where they will be seen," Rich said.

"We were mindful about where the billboards were placed and there are also strip clubs and sex shops very close to that street."

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In its 35th year, the NZAF's philosophy of giving the best safe sex advice without judgement had remained unchanged.

"We have used the language the people were are trying to reach are using," he said.

"We know people having casual sex are usually very safe, but it's about people who have a 'f***buddy' who might feel they can stop using condoms we are trying to reach."

The campaign was created by advertising agency DDB and includes posters and billboards on the streets, banners on dating apps and promotions across social media.

Hadyn Kerr, digital creative director at DDB, said the team was excited by the brief.

"The New Zealand AIDS Foundation is rare in their willingness to embrace the truth, not only about what is happening in the real world but also the truth about what kind of campaigns people will actually engage with," Kerr said.

"Ending HIV is aware this is going to ruffle some feathers, but it's important to speak the language of those who need the message the most."

A worshipper at Equippers Church on Mercury Lane, who just wanted to be known as Joe, said he found the billboard offensive.

The 61-year-old felt the use of the term "f***" was "totally unnecessary".

"It's totally inappropriate especially in a public space, and I find it absolutely offensive," he said.

"I can understand that it's here because this is K Rd, but whoever put it up there must be mindful that there are also churchgoers and children who have to walk pass the sign."

There are around 3500 people in New Zealand living with HIV. Gay and bisexual men remain the population group most at risk.

Despite only making up approximately 2.5 per cent of New Zealand's population, they are consistently over-represented in HIV diagnoses – accounting for 62 per cent of those diagnosed in 2018.