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ARTISTS have been paid to design quirky condom packets in a $50,000 taxpayer-funded art project to encourage Victorians to think safe sex is cool.

The project, which from this week will make 75,000 condoms in quirkily designed packets available free in selected shops, is backed by Family Planning Victoria and the Victorian AIDS Council, which are state and federally funded.

Ratepayers Victoria president Jack Davis said the use of public monies for such a project was "ridiculous".

"It's a joke ... I consider this an absolute waste of taxpayers' money, which can be better used by helping the needy," Mr Davis said.

Known as the Free Condom Project - The Art of Being Smart, it was the brainchild of Fitzroy retailer Abigail Crompton.

She hoped the "eclectic" packaging would make people think condoms were "cool", and start using them more to protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections.

The $50,000 cost of the project included the design of the packets, the website, marketing, research development and the condoms, Ms Crompton said.

Family Planning Victoria and the Victorian AIDS Council backed the project to boost awareness of the importance of using condoms, to curb the growing rates of STIs.

Victorian AIDS Council executive director Mike Kennedy defended the use of public money, explaining that it was "a very cheap and effective way" of getting the message of condom use across.


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