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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

FROM THE MEXICO CITY AIDS CONFERENCE: You Want a Condom?

Bob Meyers by Bob Meyers 0 comments

It is a topic that has come out of the closet, or the wallet or bureau drawer. It is not only in the dress, it IS the dress.

Condoms, most commonly a thin sheath of latex intended to be used to prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, have become a billboard of choice here at the XVII International AIDS Conference.

There is the official AIDS 2008 condom which is handed on as a five-pack (and widely available around the massive Centro Banamex). They are labeled as a “COMMEMORATIVE CONDOM,” which would suggest you’re not supposed to use them (or at least not use one of them).

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has put a single official condom inside a package with a picture of two men, each of whom has handwriting superimposed over his face. The motto on the outside is, “Nobody has the truth Written on their face. Protect yourself. Use a condom.” (www.ifrc.org) Inside the package are written and cartoon style instructions for use (“Hold the top of the condom…”). A single condom is inside a shiny pale green wrapper from the group, Brazos Abiertos (open arms, minds & hearts). Its stated mission: “To empower the people of Yucatan, Mexico to respond to AIDS” (www.hivyucatan.org). The group International Planned Parenthood Foundation has a shiny gold and blue wrapping around a condom, and the package reads, “Abstaining since breakfast,” www.ippf.org (I guess that means he or she isn’t abstaining at all, but at least is practicing safer sex). There is a female condom, with diagrammatic instructions printed on the package (it is available from the Female Health Company (www.femalecondom.org.) There is a Chinese condom two-pack that involves the ideogram for love. My sentimental favorite is the NYC Condom, with what look like the old NYC subway tokens linked on the front. No funny or thoughtful slogans on the wrapper, no websites, no nothing  – you gotta problem with dat?

Condoms are serious business in the health field. They prevent disease, they prevent pregnancy and they are comparatively cheap and easy to distribute. Health officials say they are an appropriate either in male-female sexual contact, or in male-to-male sexual contact. Prof. Christopher Beyrer of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told our J2J group that the rates of HIV/AIDS among MSM (men who have sex with men) has gotten so high that it constitutes a separate epidemic in itself. Above is one of his Power Pointsmission  (we'll post it when we get better transmission services.) The rest are available on our website (www.nationalpress.org), in the Journalist to Journalist section.

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