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Julio & Marisol: AIDS drama unfolds

NEW YORK, May 11 -- New York City health officials have unveiled the long-awaited sixth and seventh installments of 'Decision,' the innovative and popular AIDS awareness comic strip that debuted in the Big Apple's subways four years ago.

The new episodes, released Wednesday, continue exploring the stormy relationship of Julio and Marisol, two estranged young lovers who butted heads over safe-sex measures and thus captured the attention of millions of straphangers.

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Although the soap opera-style campaign originally targeted Latinos, with whom the pictorial novella format is popular, it was translated into English by popular demand, said Health Department spokesman Steve Matthews.

'The company that handles advertising for the (subway system) tells us they know the episodes are popular because they're stolen in great numbers,' said Matthews.

In May 1990, Julio and Marisol first entered the public consciousness. In that first installment, the dashing Julio stomped out of Marisol's apartment because she refused to have sex unless he used a condom.

In subsequent installments, the couple found out that one friend died of AIDS and another, Raul, is suffering from it.

New Yorkers last saw Julio and Marisol earlier this year when they encountered each other in Raul's hospital room and reconciled. Rosa,the newest character, was also on the scene, and she confessed to Raul that she is HIV-positive.

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The newest episodes reveal that Rosa is actually an old girlfriend of Julio's who is too ashamed to tell him she is HIV-positive. Then, just as Julio and Marisol seem to be getting along, Marisol finds out that Rosa is more than just a friend from Julio's old neighborhood.

Matthews said it will take about three or four months for the Health Department to come up with and execute new installments. And he welcomed suggestions from the public.

'We'll keeping making them as long as we see interest,' he said.NEWLN: (Written by Tracy Connor, edited by Harold Martin in New York)

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