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It’s Lent and, for the first time in a long time, I actually visited a church on Ash Wednesday and am reverently observing the period by giving up coffee and chocolate.  Since my early objections at a young age to certain criteria required of the faithful, I have always considered myself to be spiritual rather than religious; but many recent life events have led me to re-examine religion and explore it on my own terms.  Rifling through my writing archives this evening, I stumbled upon this response to an email conversation with a colleague on this topic during Lent last year:

St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, circa Easter 1911

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, circa Easter 1911

Recent events in the realm of reproductive health as well as a thoughtful examination of the core values of many of the world’s organized religions are exhibitive of the powerful role that religious leaders can play in preventing the transmission of HIV.  The everyday lives of many individuals and communities around the world are informed by their religion’s teachings; and as religious leaders are guided unwaveringly by their sacred text, they themselves are viewed as trusted and unfailing sources of information and advisement.  For many people in developing countries, western medicine’s scientific evidence is associated with the “White regime” and considered to be highly suspect in comparison to the irrefutable, sacred text of their religion and the advice of their religious leaders.

I have the pleasure of working with a group of HIV-positive mothers in Dakar, Senegal; and at the 2011 International Conference on Family Planning, imams in Senegal officially declared their support for contraception, including condoms.  These islamic leaders are deeply respected as steadfast holy men who lead their communities throughout their lives, offering guidance and support through birth, marriage and death; and the imams explained their show of support by stating, “What’s good for a woman is good for her family, and for her society.  We want healthy societies.”

I was personally raised in the Catholic faith, and I was taught both in church and in my Catholic school that being a good Catholic means showing respect and care for those around us.  I firmly believe that condom use exemplifies the deep care and respect that one has for oneself, as well as one’s partner.  Using a condom demonstrates a belief in the right that every person has to live a full and healthy life, the right to plan a family and the right to choose what is best for ourselves and our own bodies.

When considering religious institutions such as Islam and Catholicism, using condoms is not against their core values – it supports them.  Pope Benedict XVI has even stated, “where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, [condom use] can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality.”

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Even in our history from ancient African civilization, poets went from village to village; and that’s how stories and messages and lessons were taught.
– Tupac Shakur

Reading All About Condoms educational material on How to Use a Female Condoms

Reading All About Condoms educational material on How to Use a Female Condom

At our pop-up Zone in the Community Village

At our pop-up Zone in the Community Village

Bidia presenting the All About Condoms Use website in our Community Dialogue Space

Bidia presenting the All About Condoms Use website in our Community Dialogue Space

Eager participants in the Community Dialogue Space during a session on Anal Sex

Eager participants in the Community Dialogue Space during a session on Anal Intercourse

Adrian, Sara & Marilyn

Adrian, Sara & Marilyn

All smiles :-)

All smiles...

Covered in Condom Art Pins!

Covered in Condom Art Pins!

Handfull of ICASA 2011 branded condoms

Handfull of ICASA 2011 branded condoms

Adrian, facilitating the Condom Art Pin making program

Adrian, facilitating the Condom Art Pin making program

Marilyn and Lydia

Marilyn and Lydia

Muluken and Ashenafi

Muluken and Ashenafi

Our amazing team of volunteers

Our amazing team of volunteers

"Don't Compromise!"

"Don't Compromise!"

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Popcorn, slightly sweet: a traditional Ethiopian snack

Popcorn, slightly sweet: a traditional Ethiopian snack

An invitation to attend a coffee ceremony is considered to be a warm gesture of friendship and respect in Ethiopia, where coffee is an integral part of the society and culture.  The coffee ceremony customarily takes place in the morning, at noon and once again in the evening each day; it is the community’s main social event and a time to discuss life, politics and exchange news.  UNFPA and The Condom Project set up a Coffee Ceremony Zone at the 2011 International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa in order to give participants a space to relax in a traditional Ethiopian setting; to discuss condoms and their role in HIV prevention; and to enjoy coffee, cultural snacks, and take away Ethiopian coffee flavored condoms as a souvenir.

Coffee Ceremony Zone, under construction

Coffee Ceremony Zone, under construction

CONDOMIZE Coffee Ceremony Zone, after set up!

Coffee Ceremony Zone, after set up!

Me in the Zone, discussing male and female condoms with a group of women from the Community Village

Me in the Zone, discussing male and female condoms with a group of women from the Community Village

The Ethiopian coffee ceremony can be performed at any time of day and is traditionally conducted by a young woman dressed in cultural clothing, made of airy white fabric with colorful woven borders.  She begins by arranging the ceremonial items on a bed of long, fragrant grass; incense is lit and the coffee beans are roasted in a flat pan over a small charcoal stove.  Once the coffee beans have turned from bright green to black, the guests are invited to breathe in their smoky aroma as she wafts it toward them from the pan.  The freshly roasted beans are ground by hand with a mortar and pestle then slowly stirred into a traditional black clay coffee pot, round at the bottom with a colorful straw top.  The coffee is gracefully poured into tiny cups, the first being served to the eldest person in the room, and then to the others.  This is done in order to symbolically connect all the generations.

Pouring the coffee in an uninterrupted stream

Pouring the coffee in an uninterrupted stream

Guests enjoying coffee on the first day of ICASA 2011

Guests enjoying coffee on the first day of ICASA 2011

It is considered impolite to excuse yourself until you have enjoyed at least three cups of coffee, as the third round is said to hold a blessing.  The “spirit is transformed” during the coffee ceremony through the consumption of Abol (the first round), Tona (the second round) and finally Baraka (the third round).

The Ethiopian military taking a coffee break in our Zone

The Ethiopian military taking a coffee break in our Zone

Coffee condoms, blue jean condoms and condoms for CONDOMIZE at ICASA 2011

Coffee condoms, blue jean condoms and the condoms that we made just for ICASA 2011

According to Ethiopian folklore, coffee was discovered when a goat herder from Kaffa found his goats dancing with excitement in an area where coffee plants were growing wild in the hills.  He noticed a few chewed branches of the plant with bright red berries and decided to taste them himself – after which he hurried home to share the amazing discovery with his wife.  She urged him to tell the monks, who immediately threw the “sinful drug” into the flames of a fire… The monastery soon filled with the delicious smell of freshly roasted coffee beans.  The monks raked the beans out of the fire, crushed them, then distilled them in boiling water.  After staying up through night to investigate the substance, the monks discovered a renewed energy and commitment to their holy devotions.

Coffee table, hand-carved in traditional style

Coffee table, hand-carved in traditional style

Bountiful coffee condoms

Bountiful coffee condoms

Facilitating a discussion on the benefits of condom use

Facilitating a discussion on the benefits of condom use

And we hope that our Coffee Ceremony Zone helped to provide a renewed energy toward global condom programming for the participants at ICASA 2011 🙂

"… Don't Compromise!"

"… Don't Compromise!"

More images from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and the 2011 International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa coming soon…

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Condom Art Pin making with PSI & youth at Mekdim

Condom Art Pins with PSI & youth at Mekdim

As you can imagine, CONDOMIZE-ing ICASA 2011 was truly a team effort – we were thrilled to have fantastic partners to help us implement all of our activities in Addis Ababa, especially during our final weeks of preparation for the conference.

Condom Art Pin table at PSI Ethiopia

Condom Art Pin table at PSI Ethiopia

CONDOMIZE and PSI Ethiopia implemented Surge Prevention programming throughout the capital city with partners from The AIDS Resource Center in Addis Ababa, DKT Ethiopia, EngenderHealth, The Ethiopia Private Health Sector Program, Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia, Handicap International, OSSA Ethiopia, PEPFAR, USAID and World Learning.  These activities were all aimed at preparing the local community for the surge of international delegates who would be attending ICASA 2011.  Below are a few images from condom trainings that I conducted in partnership with PSI Ethiopia and Mekdim:

Condom Art Pin making at Mekdim

Condom Art Pin making at Mekdim

Pineapple Fanta and cookies! Snacks during a focus group with PSI and Mekdim

Pineapple Fanta and cookies! Snacks during a focus group with PSI and Mekdim

A PSI illustration of condom efficacy

A PSI illustration of condom efficacy

Community feedback on educational materials

Community feedback on educational materials

Cookies and a bedroom scene

Cookies and a bedroom scene

A morning after scenario...

A morning after scenario...

Tigist and youth at Mekdim

Tigist with young people at Mekdim

Condom Art Pin making to close a focus group at Mekdim

Condom Art Pin making to close a focus group at Mekdim

"Condoms only work if you wear them."

"Condoms only work if you wear them."

In addition to our partnership with the Surge Prevention team, we were also working with local artists and community volunteers to ensure that CONDOMIZE at ICASA 2011 had a uniquely Ethiopian feel…

Making the furniture for the CONDOMIZE Coffee Ceremony Zone

Making the furniture for the CONDOMIZE Coffee Ceremony Zone

Sisay varnishing a freshly made table

Sisay varnishing a freshly made table

Running errands in our neighborhood

Running errands in our neighborhood

Sisay's cousin, keeping our guesthouse clean while wearing my hat

Sisay's cousin, keeping our guesthouse clean while wearing my hat

Me and Lucy the cat, working on the CONDOMIZE social networking initiative

Me and Lucy the cat, working on the CONDOMIZE social networking initiative

Lucy on my bed

Lucy on my bed

Ayele on our patio with the CONDOMIZE banner, make completely out of colored condoms

Ayele on our patio with the CONDOMIZE banner, make completely out of colored condoms

Stuffing condom cases in our converted kitchen : work area

Stuffing condom cases in our converted kitchen / work area

And finally, at Millennium Hall

Hanging the CONDOMIZE banners in my Education Zone

Hanging the CONDOMIZE banners in my Education Zone

"Love Smart. Play Safe."

"Love Smart. Play Safe."

Stay tuned for photos from our time in Ethiopia outside of the capital city, and finally images from CONDOMIZE at ICASA 2011!

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After my trip to Egypt this fall (see my post about A Day In Cairo), I returned to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia during the Marathon Meeting for the International Conference on AIDS & STIs in Africa.  As many of you know, I have been back on the African continent since November 1st and am now preparing for CONDOMIZE at ICASA 2011 next week.  But before writing about my time here now, I wanted to first post a few pictures from the fall…

Sheep grazing down the road from BL Guesthouse

Sheep grazing down the road from BL Guesthouse

My neighbors

My room on the garden at the BL Guesthouse

My room on the garden at the BL Guesthouse

Three essentials in my work - condoms, coffee & shoes

Three essentials in my work - condoms, coffee & shoes

The following photos were taken at Memnon, an Ethiopian company that is creating and printing all of the CONDOMIZE tshirts for ICASA 2011.  The United Nations Population Fund felt that it was very important our CONDOMIZE ICASA products were Made In Ethiopia this year, and I am proud to say that we have been working closely with local manufacturers and purveyors to ensure that everything possible (shirts, condoms, even the furniture in our CONDOMIZE Zones) is Habesha.

CONDOMIZE silkscreens at Memnon

CONDOMIZE silkscreens at Memnon

CONDOMIZE silk screen

Silk screen printing

Silk screen printing

The photos that follow were taken at the ICASA 2011 Marathon Meeting, during which many of the important decisions about the all-Africa conference are made:

Inside the Marathon Meeting room

Inside the Marathon Meeting room

Meeting in progress

Meeting in progress

Tizu and me, setting up for CONDOMIZE

Tizu and me, setting up for CONDOMIZE

Sisay and Tizu

Sisay and Tizu

À la mode - Condom Art Pins!

À la mode - Condom Art Pins!

We were also invited to a lunch and traditional coffee ceremony at the house of Sisay and his mother.  Sisay has been our driver and a TCP team member since 2005 – and his mother is an incredible cook!  It was such a pleasure to be invited into their home 🙂

Sisay

Sisay

Sisay's mother and little neighbor

Sisay's mother and little neighbor

251 is the country code when dialing an Ethiopian phone number from abroad…

More photos soon from November & December, here in Ethiopia… xojl

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In transit

In transit

On Tuesday morning two weeks ago, I arrived in Cairo with my colleague.  After a brief lunch at the one and only restaurant open during Ramadan…

Our driver Ibrahim, fasting at McDonalds

Our driver Ibrahim, fasting at McDonalds

… we arrived at our meeting with an AIDS service organization with whom we had the pleasure of working in the winter of 2009.  The organization in Cairo, which for the safety of their staff and beneficiaries will remain anonymous in this post, is doing truly incredible work with key populations in their community.  They began as the only outreach program for female sex workers in Cairo in 2006, piloted new programming in 2007 and, having gained experience and momentum in their work, are now scaling up their activities with generous support from The United Nations Population Fund, UNAIDS, UNICEF and the National AIDS Program.

In our meeting

In our meeting

Carrying condoms is not technically illegal in Egypt; but if you are unmarried and found to be in possession of condoms, they are used as evidence against you to prove that you are engaging in sex work (which is absolutely illegal). This makes it extremely difficult for anyone to have access to condoms when they might need them. This incredible organization provides legal aid and advice on how to handle the law if you are stopped at a check point and found to be carrying condoms, with lawyers who believe in their cause volunteering on their 24-hour hotline. They also provide condom distribution to the general public, as their belief is that anyone who may engage in sexual activity has the right to protect themselves.

Informational booklet about the Egyptian sex trade

Informational booklet about the Egyptian sex trade

During the Egyptian revolution, our colleague from this organization slept in Tahir Square for 18 days. He told us that the revolution actually made his job much easier – shouting about the cause was easier, the slum areas were more accessible for outreach, and reaching female sex workers for education was less restrictive.  They were able to further their interpersonal education initiatives and pubic focus groups, talking to bus drivers and sex workers about HIV, AIDS, safer sex and condoms.

Cairo at dusk

Cairo at dusk

But with the growing instability in Tahir Square, the organization had to eventually move its drop-in center back to a slightly less centralized location in Cairo.  Since the revolution, the government has been shutting down certain specialized initiatives, such as coalitions for MSM (Men who have Sex with Men), anti-stigma organizations and alliances for “out positives.”  But our partner organization is forging ahead, including guidance counseling for sex workers looking to transition out of the profession and into a new line of work.

Arabic anti-sexual harassment campaign on Facebook

Arabic anti-sexual harassment campaign on Facebook

After our meeting came to a close, I felt newly inspired.  I had a renewed desire to continue fighting for equality and the creation of a climate in which people can ask questions and discuss who they are and what they want openly, without fear of negative repercussions as a result of long-standing societal “norms.” 

I feel so privileged to be able to travel as I do for my work.  Meeting these incredible people who are fighting in nearly impossible terrain for rights that many of us take for granted is a constant reminder that our world has so much further to come.  And if we all continue to do what we canbe a positive influence on the children in our lives, encourage those around us to ask questions and challenge assumptions, offer support in any way we can to organizations and individuals striving toward these goalswe will get there.

Cairo, illuminated

Cairo, illuminated

In the marketplace

In the marketplace

Before sunset

Before sunset


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Until the 1920s, most condoms were manufactured by hand-dipping from rubber cement.  Then Durex came along in 1929 and forged the way to the development of the very first lubricated latex condom, made available in in the United Kingdom in 1957… And they haven’t stopped innovating since.

That was then...

That was then...

This is now.

This is now.

Nowadays, Durex and Playboy Bunny Bridget Marquardt are encouraging couples of say goodbye to boring sex and hello to…

Well, to find out you’d better grab some Durex products and Get A Room 😉

Better sex together is the Durex mantra.  To help create better sex for you and your partner, Durex makes a jaw-dropping array of condoms, lubricants, personal massagers and more.  This summer, Durex launched a celebration of their Get A Room campaign in the Penthouse at the Gansevoort Park Avenue here in NYC:

Nice & Frisky - Get A Room keys

Nice & Frisky - Get A Room keys

Playboy Bunny Bridget, spokeswoman for Durex Get A Room

Playboy Bunny Bridget, hot monogamist & spokeswoman for Durex Get A Room

Latex jewelry...

Latex jewelry...

Sexy art, circa Gansevoort Park

Sexy art, circa Gansevoort Park

On this World Sexual Health Day, I am thrilled to celebrate the paths that we take to discover the choices that are right for each of us.  As a lifelong advocate of Hot Monogamy, I love that Durex is constantly evolving and enhancing their products to support a safe, happy, fulfilling and sexually healthy lifestyle 😉


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Part 4 of a week-long photographic recap of our summer at AIDS 2010

To quote the International AIDS Society:
The Global Village is a diverse and vibrant space where community gathers from all over the world to meet, share and learn from each other. It is a space for community to demonstrate the application of science and good leadership. It is also a space that invites conference participants to see how science translates into community action and intervention. The Global Village promotes networking between north and south, east and west and provides a space for displays, discussions and performances from throughout the world. The Global Village is open to the general public and conference delegates and admission is free.

We Condomized two zones in the AIDS 2010 Global Village:

Our Condomize Village

Our Condomize Village

... and our Condomize Tshirt Zone

... and our Condomize Tshirt Zone

Each tshirt comes with two condoms in a clear pocket on the left sleeve, and a space for you to write your own slogan across the front:

What’s YOUR slogan?
If you’d like to share photos of Condomize tshirts & slogans from AIDS 2010, please email them to joylynn[at]condomize.org! We’ll give you a personal shout-out on the CONDOMIZE Facebook page, on Twitter (@CONDOMIZE) and here on my blog 😉

Condomize kicked off the AIDS 2010 conference with a Condom Couture Fashion Show at the Global Village’s Opening Ceremony, in which every piece of clothing was made entirely out of Gobon condoms!

Kaora backstage

Kaora backstage

Our Condomize Village was complete with
• a “school” where visitors could view a photo story showing how condoms are made
• a “clinic” where visitors could learn about a variety of female condoms that are up-and-coming in the global pipeline
• a “shop” to pick up free condoms and lubricant
• a “hair salon” (my favorite feature of our village!) where women from Zimbabwe would educate visitors about how to properly use the FC Female Condom while braiding their hair – this is a technique that is used in the field, turning the time that many women spend sitting at hair salons into a teachable moment

Adrian, setting up our hair salon!

Adrian, setting up our hair salon...

All of us, working hard to set up our Condomize Village!

All of us, working hard to set up our Condomize Village!

Inflating our condom tree

Inflating our condom tree

Nardos, taking a quick break

Nardos, taking a quick break

Me, taking a moment to admire our work...

Me, taking a moment to admire our work...

Our colleague from UNFPA Senegal, enjoying our village!

Our colleague from UNFPA Senegal, enjoying himself!

The Global Village is an incredible place. This is where artists, activists, advocates and NGOs from all over the world can come together to show their work and share ideas about communication, education and HIV prevention.  We are so happy to have been a part of it!

Check back later for photos of my favorite part of AIDS 2010 –
my Condomize Zone inside the main conference!!!

Part 3 of a week-long photographic recap of our summer at AIDS 2010

Love condoms & custom Condomize Durex condoms, for distribution in the Global Village

Love condoms & custom Condomize Durex condoms, for distribution in the Global Village

 

Were you at the Vienna Youth Force Pre-Conference?
Do you have photos of The Condomize Campaign???
If so, we need them!
Please email any photos you would like to share to joylynn[at]condomize.org, and you will get personal shout-outs on the CONDOMIZE Facebook page, on Twitter (@CONDOMIZE) and here on my blog 😉
Until then, here’s what we’ve got:

 

The Condom Art Pin making team on Day 1 with VYF

The Condom Art Pin making team on Day 1 with VYF

Sexploration during my workshop on Promoting Condoms Beyond Prevention

Sexploration during my workshop on Promoting Condoms Beyond Prevention

 

In addition to my session at the Youth Pre-Conference, I was also invited to train the staff and volunteers of the International AIDS Society.  It was my pleasure to facilitate 10 separate trainings for IAS on condoms and lubricants with regard to HIV prevention during the week before the conference:

Lots of lubricant, courtesy of Durex in London

Lots of lubricant, courtesy of Durex in London

 

Check back tomorrow for exciting photos of our time in the AIDS 2010 Global Village, just as the conference gets underway!
Until then, thanks so much for reading… xojl

Better late than never, and just in time for World AIDS Day:
A week-long photographic recap of our work in Vienna, Austria!
Check back every day for the next 7 days to view photo stories of how my team and I spent our summer surrounding AIDS 2010.

Condomize Condom Packet

Condomize Condom Packet

Throughout May, June and July 2010 our team slowly gathered in Vienna from Canada, China, Ethiopia, Mexico and The United States

Aer Lingus

Aer Lingus

We got to work immediately with local artists to build the Condomize creative materials and a series of culturally-specific male condom 3D animations in the 6 United Nations languages.

Ulrich and Adrian

Ulrich and Adrian

Caro and Mascha

Caro and Mascha

Homosexuelle Initiative Wien (HOSI) generously rented space to us… and all of our *stuff*

As the shipments continued to roll in through customs, we were fortunate to find amazing local volunteers to help us prepare everything for AIDS 2010…

Nardos from Ethiopia, taking a break to eat his first McDonald's

Nardos from Ethiopia, taking a break to eat his first McDonald's

Adrian, Franck, Sophie and Nardos - trying on our Condom Couture courtesy of Guillin Latex in China

Adrian, Franck, Sophie and Nardos - trying on our Condom Couture courtesy of Guillin Latex in China

Unpacked Red Ribbons with golden condoms attached...

Unpacked Red Ribbons with golden condoms attached...

Check back tomorrow for a look at our neighborhood and initial work at Messe Wien in Part 2 of my week-long photographic recap of our work in Vienna, Austria…

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