Dear AIDS Service Orgs, your condom campaign isn’t working.

We need to question the efficacy of pushing condoms as the only safe sex choice. The condom campaign does not seem to be working anymore and people are not getting the message. Yet Aids Service Organizations (ASOs) continue with this message. Granted, with PrEP there is a shift in responsibility that goes beyond those already infected with HIV, to everyone engaging in sex. Yet this shift brings a lot of discomfort as people outside of the HIV community and within begin to see their own roles and responsibilities changing.

Sticking with the condom campaign is the safe route, (pardon the pun) for institutions as they begin to formulate and consolidate their position on PrEP. Is there fear that supporting PrEP could imply promoting unsafe sex and sexual behavior that is out of control? Is promoting the use of PrEP taking too much of a risk with funders and stake holders who are comfortable with the good old (but not tried and true) condom message? Is PrEP a tough sell as the general public remains in a state of fear and denial about HIV?

Let’s be honest. Who practices safe sex all the time? People make mistakes. People faulter. Who likes using condoms all the time? I don’t. I was in a long term relationship with an HIV negative person where “all conditions” were adhered to, meaning – we were monogamous, had no other sexually transmitted infections, I had an undetectable viral load and was on anti retroviral treatment. Also being a woman, the likelihood of transmitting the virus has been shown statistically to be low. Throughout this time my partner remained HIV negative. It was what Josh Kruger refered to as an “adult informed decision”.

But if I mention this to the general public or my local ASO the reaction would be one of horror. I would be handed a condom pack, with a corny safe sex message inside, and given a pat on the head and small lecture on safe sex with condom use as my only option. My job might be threatened too as I am not adhering to the organization’s policies.

In the meantime, I will continue to tow the party line, pretend that condoms are the only solution to reducing HIV transmission rates, while those of us in the know will continue to make responsible, informed decisions about bare backing. Are Aids Service Organizations, the Supreme Court of Canada and the general public in denial about the latest development in research and medical evidence? Who are the risk takers and who is going to take risks and acknowledge that condom use alone, as the safe sex message, is not working.

I choose to remain anonymous as I value my job and the funding that comes to the organization I work for.

Yours truthfully,


Monologues are independent stories. The opinions shared are the writer’s own. To learn more about PrEP, ARTs, and other prevention measures, the Beta Blog is a great resource. What HIV sources do you recommend? Have you experienced fear of PrEP? What HIV awareness campaigns are working?

2 thoughts on “Dear AIDS Service Orgs, your condom campaign isn’t working.

  1. CowPolk

    I appreciate this article. I’m in a romantically and sexually exclusive relationship entering its third year. I had one other partner, who was a virgin, and my current partner was a virgin entering our relationship. When I tell people that I am on the mini pill but not using condoms, always get gasps, finger wagging and lectures.

    1. Ian

      Hi CowPolk. Thanks for sharing here on CM. We are an open, decentralized writers collective about safer sex. Our central value is to be inclusive of peoples’ diversity and different sexual health choices, because different options and methods suit different people differently! It’s awesome and sexually savvy of you to be using a contraception that works for you and your relationship.

      I understand where the criticism is coming from. There are STIs which can be transferred in non-sexual ways as well as oral. For example, oral herpes can be contracted from sharing drinks or kissing a relative. While condoms don’t completely prevent transmission of oral herpes to the genitals of a partner, they certainly do provide a great deal of protection.

      This is why it is advise (by sex experts like at for example) that if you are foregoing condoms the very best thing you can do with your partner (even if they are virgins) is get STI tested. You can go together and make a date out of it!

      No lecture here. Just something for you to consider. 🙂


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