Alka Pande, CNS
"Say Yes to Condom No to HIV"
"A Rupee saves a life"
"Stay Negative Love Condom"
"Love yourself, Love your partner, Love Condom"
With these catchy slogans, a health organisation distributed condoms to people in New Delhi, much to the irritation of political outfits like Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena, who along with their political activities in India, also play the role of moral police in the country.
Recently, its activists damaged a condom vending machine and forced the State AIDS Control Society to remove the machine placed in a park, in one of the northern states of the country.
However, this did not deter those who are dedicated to educate the public of the ways to safeguard themselves from this deadly virus.
The message that was disseminated with the condoms was - "Say yes to condom, no to HIV'", "Stay Negative Love Condom" and so on. More so, an attention-grabbing image of a semi-nude male with the words "Stay Negative" tattooed on his upper back is already there on the streets of the capital catching attention of the passersby.
It was AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) which distributed the AHF-LOVE-Condoms. The AHF works with communities for HIV and sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing programme and is now focusing on urban population by trying to motivate it to visit the site www.freehivtest.net and find out where to get the blood test done quickly, conveniently and free of cost.
Senior Global Policy Director of AHF (USA), Ms Terri Ford, who is presently on a mission to India, is advocating this worldwide free distribution of AHF-LOVE brand condoms. "It is a new beginning to restore the condom's critical place at the front-line of effective Global AIDS Prevention and Control. If a rupee can save a life, there is no reason why free condoms should not be distributed", She argues.
Why are Condoms So Important for Global HIV and STD Control?
If global AIDS control has defined an absolute reduction in the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world, condoms can be give a large share of credit for successfully achieving that goal.
Treatment has played a crucial role in bringing hope to millions and in motivating masses of people to get tested. The huge success of the last World AIDS Day One Million Test Campaign during which men, women and children lined up across the globe to be tested demonstrates that people want to know their status.
The simple formula for global AIDS control involves -
* Identifying those who are still undiagnosed and linking them to treatment, which will render them less infectious.
* Promoting use of condom - the known and tested method for preventing the sexual transmission of HIV.
* Ensuring that the Positives protect their partners by using condom.
* Breaking the chain of infection by getting more and more people tested to know their HIV status.
The AHF has tied up with HLL Lifecare Limited for this LOVE- Condom campaign. "A key component of the campaign is the website www.getfreecondoms.org , which contains crucial information about HIV transmission, prevention and treatment, including facts about condom use. The site also incorporates an extensive 'myth v/s reality' section that frankly addresses false beliefs about HIV infection, which often prevent some individuals to go for testing,'' the medical expert Dr Nochiketa Mohanty says.
This campaign is aimed to bring public-private partnership to facilitate access to free condoms and is expected to complement the ongoing social marketing and free distribution of condoms promoted by Government of India.
The HLL representative claims that the goal of LOVE Condom Campaign is to scale-up global support for condom usage by distributing ten million high-quality World Health Organisation (WHO) approved condoms free of charge to any individual, non-governmental or government agency, which makes a commitment to support the campaign's aim of achieving hundred per cent access to free condoms worldwide.
To achieve 'Global AIDS Control' an aggressive inclusion of condoms as a safety measure is essential. The experts claim that the ABC model focusing on Abstinence-Be faithful-Condoms, which proved to be a success in countries such as Uganda, loses its strength without including C (Call for) condoms. The time has come to bring Condoms from the back to the forefront and evolve a new model of ABC (Abstinence-Be faithful-Call for) Condoms.
Alka Pande, CNS
(The author is a senior Journalist and a fellow of Citizen News Service (CNS) Writers' Bureau)