Written by: Patrick Mwesigye, Founder/Team Leader Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum & Vice President Africa Youth and Adolescents Network on Population and Development (AfriYAN)
Condom. Probably not a new word to you. More likely, it is a word you have heard several times. However, it still seems to make many of us uncomfortable. But what’s up with condoms?
The majority of us are most likely well informed that condoms can prevent unwanted pregnancies and the transmission of HIV and STIs. But is that all? For me, these, as I call them, safety tools and gadgets can only be effective if they are used correctly and consistently.
Let me tell you my story:
One day I met a beautiful young lady at a meeting in Kampala and a few months down the road, we were in a relationship. When things got more serious between us, I encouraged her to go to an HIV testing center with me but she was reluctant. Since I did not know about her HIV status, we always used a condom. Finally one day, she told me that she had been tested for HIV in the past and her results had come out as positive. That moment I realized that a condom is a savior!
A few weeks ago, I attended the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA 2015) and there was one campaign that seemed to catch everyone’s attention, the #CONDOMIZE campaign. The #Condomize space in the youth pavilion was always full of people, dancing and having fun, learning about sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), playing SRHR tailored educative games while the #Condomize volunteers were busy giving out condoms.
I was very curious to know who was behind such a mind-blowing campaign so I caught up with Adriad Gonzales, Creative Director for the #Condomize campaign. “Condomize is an attraction campaign: We want people, young and old, male or female, to come to us and walk away educated about condoms, and a commitment to #condomize and not #compromise,” notes Adriad
“What motivates us is the need to break stigma around condoms. We are aware that as a global campaign, #Condomize has to value cultural differences and behaviours. We try to attach the condom theme to something specific in each country. In South Africa, for example, we chose five animals as themes for the condoms: Lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and panther. These were used because people easily identify with them,” Adriad continues.
During the ICASA 2015 period alone, Adriad and her team distributed a total of 1.2 million condoms, 250.000 of which were female condoms.
Motivated by my personal experiences and the positive impact of the #Condomize campaign, I urge governments to re-brand the concept of condom use to meet the needs of the changing population – for both young and old. There seems to be a need for engaging people and making them realize how important condoms are for their health and wellbeing!
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