Feature story

CONDOMIZE! Campaign hits AIDS 2012

25 July 2012

The CONDOMIZE! Campaign seeks to raise awareness about the importance of condom use in a lively and engaging way.
Credit: Scott Henderson

There is a renewed emphasis on condoms at the XIX International AIDS Conference being held in Washington, DC from 22-27 July as a campaign promoting their use and availability has been re-launched with the distribution of 850 000 condoms.

The CONDOMIZE! Campaign aims to highlight the effectiveness of condoms, male and female, for HIV prevention and calls on governments, donors and users to intensify access to, and demand for, quality condoms as a primary defence against HIV.  It advocates investing significant resources and materials into promoting condom use as the most efficient and available prevention technology in the global AIDS response. Challenging the stigma that still often surrounds condoms is also a key objective.

“Let us not forget that the condom remains the cheapest and highly effective method we have to stop the spread of HIV,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé championing the importance of condoms during his opening speech at the conference. “It is time for all of us to condomize!,” he added.

The initiative was born during the 2010 International AIDS Conference in Vienna and is a partnership between UNFPA and The Condom Project, in close collaboration with Bahamas Red Cross; DKT International, a social marketing NGO; Durex, the Female Health Company, the International AIDS Society and UNAIDS.

In addition to mass condom distribution, rap music with short videos has been created, using key messages from senior international leaders about the importance of condom use. These messages are being shown on TV screens throughout the conference.

Franck DeRose, Executive Director of the Condom Project and Global Coordinator of the CONDOMIZE! Campaign, says “In a modern and exciting way, we are helping people understand very serious issues and the need to promote condom use. We must ensure that those who need condoms can access them when they need them and where they feel most comfortable. The awareness campaign at AIDS 2012 is one step towards making this happen.”

Let us not forget that the condom remains the cheapest and most effective weapon we have to stop the spread of HIV. It is time for all of us to condomize!

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé

The campaign noted that there is a considerable shortfall in condom availability in a number of countries. For example, in 2011 in sub-Saharan Africa there were only nine condoms available per man per year and only one female condom for every 10 women. These condoms were mostly provided by donors as most low- and middle-income countries do not have a budget line for condom procurement.

According to UNFPA more support and funding are needed from governments themselves to increase the availability of male and female condoms. They should create awareness initiatives and encourage people to use condoms as an important facet of a combination HIV prevention approach which uses all proven methods of avoiding infection.

“We know that sexual transmission accounts for more than 80% of new HIV infections worldwide – if we increase protected sex, we could reduce HIV incidence,” said Bidia Deperthes, UNFPA’s Senior HIV Technical Advisor.

The social marketing of these commodities is highlighted by the involvement of DKT International whose President Philip Harvey says he wants to make condoms as “attractive and convenient to buy as Coca-Cola”. Condoms manufacturer Durex welcomes the chance to be involved in such an awareness-raising intervention.  Charles Shepherd, the company’s Head of Health Promotion comments: “We are delighted to help, not only by donating half a million condoms for the CONDOMIZE! programme at AIDS 2012, but also engaging with the educational sessions.”

Organisers say there has already been a great deal of interest shown with many conference participants urging them to roll out the campaign at country level.