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Monday, June 21st, 2010 - 29 comments

What do you think about HIV and condoms? Tell the experts!

The experts at the upcoming AIDS conference in Vienna want to know what you think about HIV and condom use. Let them know your opinions by answering four simple questions.

My name is Svenn Grant. I have been working on on HIV advocacy, education and prevention in Trinidad and Tobago for the last ten years. In particular, I am interested in preventing HIV among young people, and I think one of the best ways to do that is through condoms. I have four questions related to condoms and an upcoming conference on AIDS that I’d like to ask you.

The questions

  • At what age do you think young people should start learning about condoms and why?
  • How difficult is it for you to get condoms?
  • Where do you get condoms?
  • What messages do you have for adults or organizations to facilitate condom use by young people?

Why condoms?

Condoms are a good way to prevent both HIV and STI infection in general. They are one of the best tools we have in the struggle against HIV/AIDS.

Join the interactive conversation

This summer, from July 18 to July 23, a conference on HIV/AIDS will be hosted in Vienna. This conference will be attended by policy makers, people working in the field, and people living with HIV. Even though you can’t participate physically, you can participate and have your say online.

During the conference, there will be an interactive discussion hosted by UNAIDS, UNICEF, UNESCO, UNFPA, and WHO entitled: “Right For You! Creating Game Changing Strategies for HIV and Young People.”

Leave comment, have your say

Please leave a comment below and reply to the four questions. We want to know what issues, comments and questions young people have about HIV. A panel of experts will be answering some of the best responses  and comments. They include Dr. Doug Kirby, an HIV researcher and author of The International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education and Darlington Muyambwa, a youth activist and programme manager of an organization providing information on HIV to students in Zimbabwe.

It’s an exciting way to interact with the international HIV/AIDS community, so join the Conversation! Your comments will also be part of a survey on HIV prevention. Let us know what you think about these important questions related to condoms by commenting on this blog-post.

The views expressed in this blog-post are solely those of the author.

Comments (29)

O'Leo Lokai
Monday 21st June, 2010, 8:26pm

Condoms do not prevent many STI's they reduce the risk.
It's not about condoms use it is about behaviour change. Public and general condoms distribution in past ( in parties and events) have not been effective and were a waste of money. However condom access ( not machines) on the other hand is a good initiative with proper education.

Tuesday 22nd June, 2010, 11:11am

The legal consenting age in Australia for sex is 16 years old although statistics show that teenagers are starting much younger. I think adults and their children should leave the lines of communication open on the issue. Discussion should also be centred around relationships and being selfish about who you lose your virginity with - not just the protection. Let them know about the laws, peer-pressure, their rights and if you suspect that they are in a longer-than-usual-relationship; discuss their options, when they can access doctors on their own for privacy and you will listen and not judge them. If necessary you can buy the condoms for them but emphasise that it must be used with other forms of contraception i.e. the pill and lubricant. This will probably enhance the health messages they are getting at school from the Family Planning clinic and other organisations. I think vending machines in high schools could be open to misuse.

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Tuesday 22nd June, 2010, 11:19am

* At what age do you think young people should start learning about condoms and why?
In my response, I feel that the education of Condoms, be it Female or male condoms should commence at the same age of sexuality education. since, condoms usage will always be part of sexual education

* How difficult is it for you to get condoms? among many others, some possible constraints are as a result to the legal, cultural and socio-economic norms of the nation, not accepting the provision of Condoms

* Where do you get condoms? Condoms could be bought in the Pharmacies, Hospitals, Shops, Kios (Kiosque), clinics etc

* What messages do you have for adults or organizations to facilitate condom use by young people?
More advocacy on the systematic use of condoms especially the female condoms, mass media campaigns on some basic negotiation skills to couples/ partners to implement in their relationship so to enjoy safer sex, as well as avoid been victims of sexual assaults or abuses

Kalindy Bolivar
Tuesday 22nd June, 2010, 3:22pm

• At what age do you think young people should start learning about condoms and why?
I think that the people have to learn about sexuality, gender equity and condoms from children, because when you are child, you start to learn about the sexuality, so I think that in this age you need to have scientific information about how can you protect yourself.

• How difficult is it for you to get condoms?
The condom’s access is very difficult. I think that the main barriers are:
You have to buy condoms, and many people, especially young people., don’t have money to buy condoms.
To Buy condoms is very difficult for adolescent girls because many of them are scary because the people on pharmacies usually look at bad you if you are girl and adolescent and you are buying condoms. We have to change this patriarchic culture.

• Where do you get condoms?
In my country you can buy condoms in some pharmacies, but sometimes is difficult find condoms in rural areas.
Also you can find condoms on the health centers around the country, but sometimes they don’t have condoms because they just have few condoms's supply.

• What messages do you have for adults or organizations to facilitate condom use by young people?

You have to think in the reality, not just what it should be the young people.

Ida Jeng
Tuesday 22nd June, 2010, 4:03pm

Hi everyone,
I am working for Conversations for a Better World. Just wanted to say thanks for participating in this survey and for sharing your ideas and comments! Kind regards, Ida

Tuesday 22nd June, 2010, 4:13pm

I think people should start learning about condoms as early as age 10. It's a young age yes, but many young people are becoming sexually active in one way or the other even before they hit high school. In a controlled classroom where a teacher is talking to students about condom usage and the diseases it helps to protect against is perfect. Rather than a youngster going out and learning about sex and condom usage from a friend. Women and girls should also be taught to stand up for their safety and respect and make sure that anyone they sleep with wears a condom. I have had friends who had unprotected sex because a guy was to in a rush to put on a condom, or he just did not like the feel of latex. One time is all it takes to get HIV and it lasts a life time. Men and Women should all be aware of this fact and protect themselves. Sex lasts but 20 minutes or so, we should stress the fact that your life is worth more than 20 minutes of physical pleasure.

Tuesday 22nd June, 2010, 6:48pm

Just to note that condoms don't prevent STD's they reduce the risk and you can still get some STDs using condoms.

It's about behaviour change and I think the age would vary but my suggestion is from as early as 8/9 age group because in our country many of our kids in primary schools talk about sex..

I'm an adult and It'snot difficult for me to get condoms but I think our young ones are stigmatized when coming to purchasing condoms because our society still thinks within the box. They would easily access it when it's given out at events/shows etc.

Nitasha Kumar
Tuesday 22nd June, 2010, 11:58pm

* At what age do you think young people should start learning about condoms and why?

Young people are becoming sexually active as early as 13 yrs old. At this age most kids dont understand the meaning of sex, STI/STD's or HIV and the surrounding issues, for that matter. So sex education including Condom education needs to start early. But along with this its becoming increasingly important to also teach self worth, self respect and respect for others from a young age and practice this in the childs immediate environment. This responsibility falls onto not only parents of the child but also the teachers at schools. Leading and teaching by example is the best way to teach a child and once a child knows and understand self-worth and value of others they will respect the act of sex, and that hopefully this will encourage safe sex.

So i believe that condom use isn't about access to condoms etc but more so about believing and understanding the use of them, and the reasons for it.

* How difficult is it for you to get condoms?

Its not too difficult at all, Most petrol stations, supermarkets, and pharmacies supply some sort/variety of condoms.

* Where do you get condoms?'


* What messages do you have for adults or organizations to facilitate condom use by young people?

Promoting condom use is all about the youth understanding why their using condoms, who it is protecting and why. For a young person to really grasp this they will need to have self respect and respect for others; this i believe is lacking in many societies globally. Anyone can gain access to a condom, It is not difficult, but using it each time u have sex is a very different issue, Here is where the woman must stand up for herself and a man must respect the woman; this doesn't happen.

Jason encabo
Wednesday 23rd June, 2010, 4:01am

*At what age do you think young people should start learning about condoms and why? For me, I think at any age they start asking about it. Children, people and everyone has the right to know how to protect themselves from unwanted and undesired consequences of having sexual intercourse.

* How difficult is it for you to get condoms? It's is okay in the country since it is available on-counter at any good store but I think the problem is in the stigma people attribute to buying condoms...It is not usual here that storekeepers and counter persons stare at you like you done something wrong with buying the condom.

* Where do you get condoms? We could buy it anywhere...

* What messages do you have for adults or organizations to facilitate condom use by young people? Actually our organization is starting up programs for young people and MARCY and one intervention is condom distribution. All I could tell to adult organizations facilitating condom-use for young people is to teach them also responsibility and to realize the need to spend for their own protection and not just access it for free...

Yama Meerzada
Thursday 24th June, 2010, 4:02am

At what age do you think young people should start learning about condoms and why?
It is found unnecessary to talk with children (Age 10 or younger) about sex or any sexual activity, because childhood is considered the age to teach them the real essence of human life, and manners of living within a society.
They should start learning about condoms at an age near to adulthood, between 13-14 years or above. Because by then they would have a grown-up sense of understanding about the STI/STD’s or HIV and the surrounding issues. It is more important to know how to inform young people about condoms than to just make them aware of condoms.
HIV/AIDS will be a phenomenon for them if they are not informed at an appropriate age.

How difficult is it for you to get condoms?
It is very difficult in my society to ask for condoms, especially for adults.
It is considered mischief if a female is asking for condoms. Moreover, If married person asks for a condom, he gets it on the sly from the shopkeepers so that no one sees them make the deal.
In-fact there are stores in the capital who do sell condoms although people do get condoms not easy, but when we move across the provinces then almost all of the provinces find it the means of promoting mischief in the society, and they prevent people from using condoms either for avoiding unwanted pregnancy (child birth) or any other reason.

My Message is: Promote Safe Sex to Save Lives!

Thursday 24th June, 2010, 8:24am

My dear there is something i would love to share with you. Personally i have come across these complaints from young people who are my clients. They are now Hiv positive but they say, they have never had sex without condoms and when examined they new how to use them effectively. Now, in Uganda many young people have started doubting condoms....What do u say about that????

And there is a belief that condoms sent this side are false......


Edgar Makona
Thursday 24th June, 2010, 2:18pm

This is a very interesting topic:
Lack of condom use or inconsistent condom use is on the increase due
the following pointers;
1. Alcohol and drug, the young people have little control over condom
use especially when they are under the influence of alcohol/drugs
2. SRH – The availability of contraceptives has out shadowed condom
use especially among Young women. Young women are more afraid of
pregnancies than HIV. Statistics on contraceptives especially on the
morning pills, e-pills have increased massively. This is an indicator
that the young women are no longer using any protection.
3. Gender relations/ Power – Women have no say over sex and this
includes condom use.
4. Cultural barriers; There are cultures that do not promote family
planning; and therefore roots for more children
5. Restrictions on addressing SRH in Schools; schools are sensitive on
issues to do with sexuality. Condom promotion in schools, where
majority of the students are sexually active, is seen as promoting
sexual immoralities.
6. Sexual Orientation and practices; the MSMs feel they are
marginalised since they opt for lubricants versus condom use.
7. Religious perspective, the Catholics for instance are against condom use
8. The attitude of young people; some have a sensation that it’s nice
and juicy going bila condoms.

Well....Therefore, strategic approaches to reverse the trend is vital,
and these should include
- The positive association of concurrency to consistent condom use,
- Prevention efforts should attempt to change peer cultures as a way
to develop self-sustaining risk reduction. These changes should
include changes in gender roles and power relations. Young women are
more afraid of Pregnancy than HIV.

Friday 25th June, 2010, 6:34am

Young people should start learning about condoms at around the age of 14. Studies have shown that in Sri Lanka the age of sexual debut for boys is around 14.5years. However condom use is only 5% in Sri lanka. One of the biggest barriers to accessing condoms is not so much the price as the shyness around asking for condoms. Vending machines have been installed in the past but vandalised. no young person i have met feels comfortable going to a pharmacy and asking for condoms. (young girls are even shy to ask for sanitary pads - which are always wrapped in newspaper and sold)

Edgar Makona
Friday 25th June, 2010, 7:28am

At what age do you think young people should start learning about condoms and why? From pre-teenage, I know of a grade two kid, who visited a VCT/ HTC Site and was asking about a condom for kids, since he was having sex with eight graders and teachers.

How difficult is it for you to get condoms? Its accessible for many ‘urbanites’, but a challenge to those in the rural, or resource constrained areas.

Where do you get condoms? Either buy or free from the Health centres or HTC sites

What messages do you have for adults or organizations to facilitate condom use by young people? Dialogue with Youth Organisations in the SRH programs, and build bridges to sensirize condom use.
They should also work on the packaging – appealing packages will woo the Ys, last but not least work on flavors i.e mango, strawberry, Pineapple etc, but shouldnt increase the prices.

Saturday 26th June, 2010, 10:35am

Please could you design a French page on this web site related to this debate? Otherwise it will be another barrier to understand youth around the world ...
Warm regards

Arcadius GUIEDJI
Cote d'Ivoire

Maji Peterx From Kaduna, Nigeria
Sunday 27th June, 2010, 1:09pm

At sixteen young people should know about condoms and its importance, not just as part of sex education but behavioural change communication.
Condoms are available and can easily be gotten in drug stores.
Unless condoms are advertised, marketted and sold like drugs (Medicals not hard drugs) it will have continue to have culturally induced problem of acceptance.

Maji Peterx

Faith Ekudu
Monday 28th June, 2010, 1:33pm

* At what age do you think young people should start learning about condoms and why?

I think they should first be introduced to understanding why you need a condom (to begin with) at age 10 because they have more or less been introduced to the idea of sex through the music, movies or whatever media they are consuming. Putting it all into context at that age might better prepare them for situations when they have to make that choice later on.

* How difficult is it for you to get condoms?
Not that difficult, they are available at most pharmacies and supermarkets in urban centers. I havent looked in more rural areas but I am going to say it's probably harder.

I think a better question would be *How easy is it for you to use them*
the psychology be

* Where do you get condoms?

* What messages do you have for adults or organizations to facilitate condom use by young people?

Maureen Agena
Tuesday 29th June, 2010, 6:14am

Great initiative Stevnn, Now, what kind of condoms are we talking about here? Am more concerned about the Gender aspect of this. Are you only advocating/campaigning for the use of the male condoms? what about the female ones? How do you intend to tackle the complaints in countries like Uganda about the female condoms not being user friendly?
Behavioral change is key in fighting HIV/AIDS. Even using condoms requires one who is well behaved and sane in order not to abuse them. One main challenge in this is lack of knowledge and information on how to use the condoms among the youth especially those in rural areas.

Tuesday 29th June, 2010, 10:55am

Hey People!
Thanks for sending your comments...Remember this is the beginning of a discussion on many Sexual and Reproductive Rights that young people may be denied of all around the world... Soon you will hear from other conversation starters about comprehensive sex and sexuality education!
If you are 10 - 13 or even 14-16 years old...
Are you really going to step into a pharmacy or drug store to pick up a pack of condoms? If NOT, what can be done to improve access?

To Simon from Uganda - you need to tell me more about why young people are doubting condoms. I think you are implying that young people living with HIV and AIDS understand and use condoms correctly and consistently, while other young people unaware of their HIV and/or AIDS status are hesitant to use it.

In some of my earlier work in Trinidad and Tobago, Comprehensive Condom Programming was crucial to changing the culture of condom use... Young people and adult allies working together to promote the coolness of condoms... sometimes free condoms are not enough, sometimes we may need to put the condoms in well design and popular culture packaging..Check out

Let's keep Chatting!

Friday 2nd July, 2010, 10:17am

At what age do you think young people should start learning about condoms and why?

- I would say around ten. This would allow for so called "early starters", I don't see the problem of teaching children at as young an age as ten because it generates awareness of a subject that is going to effect them in the future. So really its like math / english skills.

* How difficult is it for you to get condoms?

Not that difficult. You can purchase them really everywhere in the UK, and there are some centers which offer them for free. However I think there should be more access within schools.

* What messages do you have for adults or organizations to facilitate condom use by young people?

Try and reduce the stigma (for women purchasing condoms there can be a lot of negative attributes attached to that person thereafter) associated with the purchase of condoms within drug stores, increase the accessibility in developing countries (however occasionally this can be seen as an infringement on local religious custom; I'm not sure how to get around this apart from providing access and thus desensitizing the situation).

Saturday 3rd July, 2010, 7:24pm

Yes, condoms are a great way of prevention but there's not a 100% guarantee with them, there would always be a slight fear. However, that doesn't mean you should stop using them out of this fear, I guess what I wanna say is always have a back-up method of preventing too. Abstaining is probably the best way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. In answer to your questions:
At what age do you think young people should start learning about condoms and why?>> I would say from the age kids are in primary school, they are already teaching Sex Ed to 10-11 yr olds here, so they should include the issue of condoms too. It's best to start early because people are beginning to engage in sexual relationships from surprisingly young ages!

How difficult is it for you to get condoms?>>> It is not that difficult to access condoms from pharmacies, nowadays there are organisations e.g. Dance4Life, that give condoms out for free at public events!

What messages do you have for adults or organizations to facilitate condom use by young people?>>> Teach at schools primarily. Increase access without the young person feeling like a victim of some kind. I also think that the stigma should be reduced regarding condoms, it has become like a taboo. What surprises me is how sex is advertised so much via media/scandals/movies etc. but the birth control/prevention from STIs methods aren't.

Tuesday 6th July, 2010, 11:24am

•At what age do you think young people should start learning about condoms and why?
I thing it would be better to include condom using in Young's people sexual and reproductive education. This education could start before their puberty. The main problem is that in our "African societies", parents do not give really a sexual education to theirs children because sex still a taboo subject.

•How difficult is it for you to get condoms?

The main difficulty is there availability, spécifically for student because nown we are unauthorized to tell them about condom or share concom during prevention activities in school establishment.

•Where do you get condoms?
We can buy them in pharmacies, shops. We can also get them freely in some organizations, hospitals, ...

What messages do you have for adults or organizations to facilitate condom use by young people?

I am agree that sexual abstinence can be consider for young people like "best way" to protect them against HIV and others sexual transmitted infections, specifically for student because abstinence can help them to easily build their future. But reality is different: young people are early sexually active. So if we want to rolling back annual number of news infections among young, we must give them choice between many ways. After training or sensitization on sexual abstinence, condom must be available in community: multiplying automatic provider, improving female condom access, training young people for better using.

David Ayegba
Wednesday 7th July, 2010, 7:26pm

We can start teaching our children about Sex education at an early age of 4 years considering the rate at which children develop these days. For the availability of condom,it will be good if the youths are taught early in life about the consequences of the choices they make.Today my organization has taken the part of abstinence by organizing a VIRGIN AWARD PROGRAM tagged "RHYTHM OF PASSION".This event is done during the valentine season,when most youth miss the true meaning of Love and may yield to the desire of lust.

Friday 16th July, 2010, 4:19am

Every one should know about condom starting from grade one. Knowing doesn't expose to start sex early because we used to learn many subjects which are non practicable.

Lukia Nakafeero
Saturday 17th July, 2010, 12:50pm

Am called Lukia Nakafeero from Uganda i like participating in these conversations and i will be happy if you continue sending those articles to me.

lukia nakafeero
Saturday 17th July, 2010, 1:33pm

I would like to answer these questions. so according to me, I think if a young person has started his or her adolescent age should be the best person to learn about condoms and the age should be from 14 through teenage.

I don't have any difficult in getting condoms because I stay in a town where its easy to get condoms, only that i have never bought one. here in Uganda teens find it hard to buy condoms because of shyness, fear, peer pressure and some are illiterate about them and how to use them.

As i have already said i have never bought a condom but if i was to buy them i get from pharmacies, drug shops and supermarkets.

The messages I have for those organizations are: First educate those adults about condom use, places where to but them, guide shy parents on how to talk to their teenage girls and boys.

To us who are in developing countries we usually have a problem with getting expired condoms or condoms that their expiry dates are due so after few months they expire but government does not through them away. so they distribute them to rural area so people loose trust in those condoms and so they end up not using condoms.

Thanks a lot for the opportunity and am looking forward for ya reply. i have answered all the four questions.

Saturday 17th July, 2010, 4:04pm

As I know condoms can guarantee 98% of protection, 1% is bad quality condoms and 1% inability of young people how to use condoms- correctly. So I think that youth should know about condoms and know how to use it, because it is one of the effective way to protect people from HIV and another STIs..........

Monday 23rd August, 2010, 11:46am

I think teenagers should be taugh about condoms as soon as they Leave primary School. Reason being as sad as it, and as much as we want to deny it children are becoming more exposed to sex and at a much younrger age and and are practicing sex at a much younger age.

Condoms can be bought almost anywhere, I usually get them form Family Planning. It is easy to get in Trinidad.

Oh God so many people dont want to know if they are HIV Positive because of the fear of stigmatism and most peolpe see HIV as a nasty painful death.

In trinidad I find the system to be a bit lengthy.

I did my rapid test on August 06th tested positive, waited one month for the blood results to come back and then had to wait a next month for my viral load.

This gives a person enough time to deteriorate when research shows that the earlier a person starts the better for them.

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Guest Editor

Svenn Grant

Director of Outreach Programs, YMCA of TT


Has dedicated the last 11 years to working on sexual and reproductive rights, with a focus on condom promotion and access to comprehensive sexuality education. Currently serving as the Director of Outreach Services at the YMCA of TT, Svenn is responsible for projects related to HIV education, prevention and advocacy, and gender and non-violence programming targeting men and boys. In this role, he has developed a working partnership with UNFPA through which he facilitated an international peer educator training on gender and advocacy in St Lucia, presented a paper to Gender Bureaus in Grenada, and served as a panelist at the International AIDS Conference. Through his position at the YMCA, Svenn has also established a partnership with the University of the West Indies’ Centre for Gender and Development Studies, sitting on a Project Advisory Committee for the faculty’s Breaking the Silence research project on child abuse. Additionally, Svenn is a member of the UNIFEM facilitated Working Group on Masculinities, Gender Equality and Social Policy. Svenn also presents the radio show Reality Check on Power 102FM. Prior to this, he presented a season of the TV special New Voices on a local Trinidadian station. As part of the show, he played a fictional character called “Condom Man”, promoting condoms during the Carnival festivities on the islands. Previously, Svenn was an active member of Advocates for Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (AYSRHR) and the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YC).

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