Instead of Condoms, Why Not…

So Indonesia is in the middle of a condom commotion. Just a few days ago, the National AIDS Mitigation Commission and a private condom company launched its 7th National Condom Week (Pekan Kondom Nasional) following the National AIDS day. This week was aimed to raise awareness by providing educational activities regarding HIV/AIDS prevention measures. In this source, it is said that giving away free condoms was once included in the plan. If you ask me, what stands out in this program this year is the big red bus with a huge picture of one of the nation’s notorious sex icons Julia Perez, touring around Jakarta. The bus is actually a mobile classroom filled with educational activities, remember that quote, don’t judge a book by its cover? The bus does not even distribute condoms for free. Actually if you think about it, technically speaking, an educational bus is a smart idea. It’s mobile and practical and it sounds pretty efficient. You can reach a lot of people and deliver plenty of educational material in a relatively short amount of time, not to mention doing those activities in a bus itself is an experience compared to a boring one-day activity in your campus hall.

a chart I took from a Condom Awareness Week infographic

a chart I took from a Condom Awareness Week infographic

Nevertheless, can you imagine the plethora of reactions to this program, especially after the news of the distribution of free condoms (that were neatly slipped into sex education books) in front of one of Indonesia’s prominent public universities? Even if this wasn’t an integral part of the official program, as clarified here, and happened coincidentally with the kick off of the program, things like this are likely to happen. I guess that’s the risk that comes with holding such a tricky campaign even if it has a good cause. There is a possibility that there are disagreeing parties that use sneaky tricks that force you to take the blame or just simply other parties deciding to give away condoms slipped inside of books in conjunction with this week. Ah, I don’t know. Well, the National Condom Week ended up being put to an end due to public reaction. I think that the program was not all that bad, but it is a shame that this program had a few glitches here and there that ended up being contraproductive.

So, I decided to make a list of how I would handle this event had I been the project leader.

Okay so here’s the thing. I’m jumping straight to technicalities (I’ve spent my years in college involved in event organizing so I love this kind of thing). Let’s assume we have unlimited funding and just set aside moral and religious debate here.

1. Not name it National Condom Week.

I personally think that we are not ready and open minded enough to interpret National Condom Week to something positive. Why not make it: National AIDS Prevention Week?

2. Not make a bus with a big-ass picture of a sexy-posed sex icon.

This is Indonesia, not a liberal-secular western country where the society would probably be more thankful (or at least wouldn’t mind that much) seeing a big-ass picture of a curvy sex icon touring around roads in broad daylight. Indonesians? Hahaha. No way, Jose. It’s already a well known fact of how religious and conservative our society is and how delicate anything sexual is here. In a transition from taboo and denial to awareness, a sound public acceptance should be a major concern. And would a huge photo of a typical Indonesian man’s fantasy on a bus make this transition easier? I honestly doubt so.

3. Channel that money into something more sustainable.

Sustainability is always a question with awareness events like this. How can you make sure that the impact will last for the upcoming months? I was thinking, well if the bus was intended to visit spots concentrated with young people such as hangout spots and campuses around Jakarta, well I guess the aim is young people right? Why not, let’s say, put propaganda in public restrooms in universities, malls, and night clubs? Instead of putting it in the form of boring posters you usually see at a hospital, work with young designers with fresh ideas and package it in a funky, trendy, and educational way. Or make a mobile device game and slip in some educational material in it. Well if you’re targeting high risk spots such as harbours, docks, prostitution spots, and truck stopping spots the technicalities should be tailored to the condition of the people there. Perhaps educational propaganda can be displayed in public restrooms and nearby warung shops.

Well I didn’t come up with a lot of ideas, but that’s my 2 cents. Regarding the moral and religious realm of this condom commotion, we can go on and on and honestly, I think it would take more than a condom education to initiate one’s pre-marital sex life. I mean, seriously, condoms are already quite accessible, in terms of price and distribution, noting how immensely dispersed they are in mini markets. If a teenager wants to know how to wear a condom, he/she can simply YouTube it. More emphasis should be put on educating the health risks rather than on the condom itself. The condom is just a tool. Like a quote, it’s not the gun that’ll make you shoot your target successfully, but it’s the man behind the gun. It’s a shame such a good cause had a few overlooked elements here and there that caused it to stop in its tracks. Let’s hope that in the future, programs like this will be more compatible with the nature of our society and thus enlarging its acceptance and impact.

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