A collaborative effort by AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Focus-Media Fund and Dance4Life engaged 11,356 participants across 17 regions of the Russian Federation in an annual commemoration of the International Condom Day on Feb 14.
The wide-reaching initiative, dubbed “Love for Life” sought to stimulate a discussion around ways to practice safer sex and prevent the transmission of HIV and other infectious diseases. The volunteers staged youth-oriented activities in movie theaters, night clubs, educational institutions and informational tents, which included free LOVE Condoms distribution, condom arts and crafts, and sexual health trivia contests.
The organizers encouraged all participants to express their opinions on the preferred methods of HIV and STD prevention by taking a short survey. The survey included abstinence, faithfulness to a single partner and condoms as the three possible responses. According to the results released by the activists, 4898 people took part in the survey. Of those who voted, 2498 chose condoms as the preferred method of protection, 1950 opted for faithfulness and 450 for abstinence.
For the survey respondents who chose faithfulness and abstinence, the top reasons for not using condoms included the notion that faithfulness and trust are more reliable than condoms, reduced sensation deters satisfaction, lack of money to purchase condoms, discomfort and timidity associated with buying condoms and the inaccessibility of condom when they are needed.
The “Love for Life” initiative achieved its highest turnout in the city of Nizhny Novgorod where about 5000 people participated in the activities, in part due to the vigorous community mobilization carried out by the local network of volunteer organizations.
To entice people to take part in the survey, Dance4Life volunteers came up with two creative ways of voting. All participants were offered to cast their votes by either writing their preferred method for avoiding STDs on a balloon, or by taking one of the three gifts from a vase – a condom, signifying condoms as the choice; a heart-shaped chocolate candy, representing faithfulness; or a coin-shaped chocolate candy, symbolizing abstinence.
The events in Nizhny Novgorod as well as other cities and regions enjoyed considerable media attention with coverage in local newspapers and by TV broadcaster.