Whenever I tell someone that I work in HIV education, I’m invariably met with “So like, condoms?”
This response is unsurprising since growing up many of us equate safe sex with only condoms, which is great given that condoms do provide effective protection; however, the reality is so much more complicated than that.
Safe sex requires so much more than an awkward trip to the drugstore, and the new youth campaign from Alliance for South Asian Aids Prevention (ASAAP) aims to shed light on exactly that. By depicting different scenarios, the campaign it’s about more than a condom shows how elements like developing support, building trust, dealing with shame and lack of access in our everyday lives shape the way that we navigate our sexual health. Using wordless comic strips, the campaign illustrates 4 stories exploring common scenarios that affect young people and their relationships. Each comic showcases the subtle dynamics that youth go through, highlighting that our sexual lives are impacted by more than what happens in the bedroom.
As a frontline worker, I can provide someone with any number of condoms but that can be less important than the ability to use them. In other words if someone can’t have a conversation with their partner about the need to use condoms, then it may as well be a decorative item in their bedroom drawer. Introducing condoms into an existing relationship may raise questions about trust and fidelity. Even In the healthiest of relationships, navigating this conversation is awkward at best, and may not even be an option in others.
Youth don’t have to be having sex to learn and talk about sex. One of the challenges of talking about sexual health with youth is the fear permeated in society that knowledge about sex will encourage sex.This myth conjures images of teenagers running out of health class to hump away in dark corners of parking lots, with little concern for consequences. In reality, research consistently shows that comprehensive sexual education delayed age of sexual initiation, and increased condom or contraceptive use.
There’s so much marketing that goes into telling young people what to think, how not to cave into peer pressure and how to just say “no,” so few of these campaigns ask youth what they actually think. In a world of sexting, snapchats and sexual misinformation, it is even more crucial to work with youth to create initiatives that are reflective of their own complex realities.
Check out the full campaign here and tell us what you think using #teaseproject