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All He Talks About is Sex

Jairo Bouer has made a career of talking publicly about what people do in their most private moments. His penchant for sex talk has made him a media star and won him a loyal following. But behind his sex-guru image is a more serious agenda: trying to prevent unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and drug and alcohol abuse among Brazilian youths.

Photos courtesy Jairo Bouer

On a given morning, you might find him in one of São Paulo's favelas, a poor urban neighborhood where children play barefoot on unpaved streets around open sewers. In the afternoon, he might show up at an exclusive private club, where uniformed babysitters and dark-skinned drivers cater to a mostly white clientele. But no matter where he is, he always talks about the same thing: sex, sex, and more sex.

Thirty-nine-year-old psychiatrist Jairo Bouer talks about sex with everybody. He tells jokes, makes puns, and calls things by their real names-the ones used by everyday people, not academics. He's especially good at making teenagers laugh. But he does more for Brazil than spread laughter. For Bouer, humor is a tool in his daily work of helping to prevent unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and drug and alcohol abuse, particularly among Brazil's young.

A psychiatry graduate from the University of São Paulo, one of Brazil's most prestigious universities, Bouer turned to sex-professionally speaking-toward the end of his residency, when he joined a newly formed academic group known as the Sexuality Project, or Prosex. About the same time, he launched his journalistic career by taking over the health page of one of Brazil's largest daily newspapers, Folha de São Paulo.

His first article wasn't about sex, nor was it aimed at adolescents; it was about diseases pets can transmit to their owners. Six months later he began writing a health column for the paper's youth supplement, a move that put him on the road to becoming the teen idol he is today. "That's where I started reading kids' questions—all of them handwritten; this was before e-mail-and answering them in my newspaper column," he recalls.

Bouer soon began turning his attention to HIV/AIDS, and he attended each of the World AIDS Conferences, starting with the 1996 meeting in Vancouver where antiretroviral therapy was introduced. But to prevent HIV/AIDS, you have to talk about sex. By now, 11 years after writing his first weekly column, Bouer has explored just about every possible angle on the subject.

Today he has two radio programs, appears on television ("I reach the rich by cable and the poor by parabolic antenna"), writes books, participates in conferences (including some organized by the Pan American Health Organization), serves as a government consultant on HIV/AIDS and drug and alcohol prevention, and has his own website-you guessed it-on sex. Time is his scarcest resource, and some weeks he seems to live in the sky, judging by the airtime he logs flying between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

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