On Feb. 13, the eve of the Valentine’s Day 2012, AIDS Healthcare Foundation marked International Condom Day with worldwide events in which advocates gave away nearly half a million free condoms to the public in 21 countries.
The annual event organized by AHF strives to promote condom use as a way to prevent new HIV infections and help partners protect themselves and their loved ones from sexually transmitted diseases. In many locations, condom distribution was accompanied by free, rapid HIV testing and AIDS awareness-raising activities.
In the UNITED STATES during the condom celebration in Venice Beach, California, AHF kicked off an ambitious cross-country “Condom Nation” tour. From the famed Venice Beach Boardwalk, AHF advocates handed out condoms and then dispatched a specially outfitted 18-wheel truck on a six month, 20-state cross country tour to promote safer sex and hand out millions of free condoms and safer sex educational materials. In many cities along the route, local community partners and the accompanying Condom Nation van will also offer free, rapid HIV testing to the public. Condom Day events were also held in Washington, DC, Oakland, CA and South Florida.
In MEXICO, AHF and partners distributed 180,000 condoms in 12 states. Numerous events organized in the country to commemorate the International Condom Day enjoyed wide media attention and were well attended by the public. The team performed 2,130 HIV tests and identified 38 HIV positive people, who were then referred to care. As part of the celebration the Government of Mexico indicated that it will donate 250,000 condoms to help support AHF’s condom promotion efforts.
At the commemoration of condom festivities in Lukaya and Kalunga districts of UGANDA,, in one day AHF tested 1,114 people and identified 136 HIV positive individuals, all of whom were subsequently referred to care. The staff also distributed 14,440 free condoms. Numerous dignitaries from the Ministry of Health, Uganda AIDS Commission, the Parliament and the local leadership of Kalungu district attended the events. Dr. Akol, the Manager of the AIDS Control Program from the Ministry of Health, praised AHF -Uganda Cares in a speech, thanking the staff for their tireless work. AHF President, Michael Weinstein was also in Uganda and attended the celebration and the groundbreaking for a new AHF Uganda Cares treatment clinic in Lukaya.
AHF and its partners achieved equally impressive results across other countries in the Africa Bureau. In SOUTH AFRICA, staff organized road shows to mobilize the community in the township of Umlazi. At the conclusion of the weeklong celebration, the team had distributed nearly 29,000 condoms and tested 1,355 people, identifying 187 HIV positive people and linking them to care.
In Manzini, Eswatini AHF staff organized a media campaign and a dance competition to entice people to attend the condom distribution and testing event. The team distributed 36,000 free condoms and performed 417 rapid HIV tests. One hundred eight people tested positive at this event.
AHF ZAMBIA distributed 43,200 condoms and provided 1,120 free HIV tests to the public. During the commemoration 88 people tested HIV positive and were linked to care.
Hundreds showed up to mark the International Condom Day events around Kigali, RWANDA, where activities extended well into the night. The team distributed 25,000 condoms and tested 150 people. Two positive results were identified.
In KENYA, AHF and partners from the Ministry of Health, the Municipal Council of Mombasa and the Salvation Army focused condom distribution and HIV testing activities on high-traffic areas of Kongowea and Emali markets in Kithituni and Mombasa. Nearly 90,000 condoms were distributed. Of 510 people who were tested at the events, three had an HIV positive result.
NIGERIA, a recent addition to AHF’s countries of operation in Africa, commemorated International Condom Day by distributing 12,720 condoms and testing 3,745 people over four days. Among those tested, 178 had an HIV positive result.
In INDIA, AHF and partners organized a march and rally in the heart of a high risk brothel district in Delhi, India to commemorate International Condom Day. G.B. Road was specifically chosen as the location for the condom awareness march and testing event because it is the area of “legal” brothels, where rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases are high. The team distributed 2,500 condoms and performed 82 HIV tests, mostly among men.
AHF and its partners also put on an educational risk reduction magic show, which attracted hundreds of men in the area. AHF’s Senior Director of Global Policy and Advocacy, Terri Ford was in India and participated in the activities.
In UKRAINE, AHF’s Eastern Europe team and volunteers conducted outreach to universities and other public spaces in Kyiv and Odessa. In all 9,788 condoms were distributed and 210 tests were performed. The organization also distributed 4,000 information leaflets and flyers about safer sex practices and HIV prevention.
The Estonian Network of People Living with HIV, a partner organization that closely collaborates with AHF in ESTONIA, distributed 10,000 condoms and 1,000 informational leaflets across five cities. The Network used this event as an opportunity to advocate for better access to condoms. The organization sent a letter to all members of the Estonian Parliament and the Ministry of Social Affairs asking the government to exempt condoms from a 20% sales tax in order to make them more affordable.
In RUSSIA, AHF partners in Moscow conducted awareness-raising activities promoting safer sex practices via social media. In Yekaterinburg, a mobile testing unit conducted testing outreach throughout the city. A total of 199 tests were performed and 7 HIV positive people were identified.
In LITHUANIA, AHF partner Demetra sent a manifesto inviting 172 members of Parliament, Vilnius municipality and government representatives responsible for public health to start a dialogue and take action to make condoms more accessible and affordable. Between Feb. 10-14 volunteers distributed 5,000 condoms in movie theatres across seven cities. On International Condom Day prior to each film screening, a video clip was shown promoting condom use. In Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital city partners conducted 210 HIV tests. A total of 6,088 condoms were distributed during the events.
Over the years, AHF’s observation of International Condom Day has grown into a worldwide event that is part condom use promotion and part advocacy for access to affordable condoms. Condoms remain the most cost-effective way to prevent new HIV infections and save lives; unfortunately, in many places around the world they are still inaccessible for political, ideological and economic reasons. For more information about International Condom Day and AHF’s condom advocacy please visit www.lovecondoms.org.