Condoms and Community?
The first time that I ever had a chance to build my own community was as a resident assistant in college. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my time in college. As a resident assistant or RA for short, we were able to stay in the college dorms rooms or apartments beyond our first year free of charge, and we got free meals! How could I resist the benefits of serving my fellow students in welcoming them to college?
At first, I thought it was just a great way to save money. But the bonds and community that I made during that time really influenced the way I think about being of service to others. I find similarities to my advocacy of PrEP on H-I-V.net to the days when I was the "condom captain."
Free condoms through an ambassador program
Researching online and finding programs that offer free services is kind of a hobby of mine. And when it came to my residents, I was always looking for free and interesting resources to offer them.
So for some reason, I came across the Trojan condom website and found out they had an ambassador program for people that work with college students. The deal was that if I took a few promo pictures handing out condoms on campus, I would get an entire big box of condoms. The package came to the mailroom one day and, to my surprise, I had a box of over 250 condoms! It was like a golden treasure chest of Magnums.
Providing free condoms and education to my residents
I set up a beautiful bulletin board display with a pot full of condoms at the end of the hallway. Residents would knock on my door asking for them. It was a bold way to create community by providing useful information about condom use and providing an abundance of free condoms for all 30 of my residents.
Making condoms easily accessible
When looking at PrEP for HIV prevention, I really want to do the same thing. In "PrEPing for Assistance", I give you some resources to the Department of Health and Human Services programs for free PrEP to those who qualify. Just like hanging a bucket of condoms outside of my dorm room, I want to make access to services easy for you to navigate and use. People are empowered and the communities we shape are made stronger by giving people accurate information and resources that can be put into action immediately.
Community outreach is key
So in the end, giving away a ton of condoms was a pretty challenging job. The work that peer educators put into access is really the heart of the work. After all of the scientific research and drug development is done, reaching out to those in need provides the real solution to HIV, STI, and all issues in health education.
The key is strengthening our communities and reestablishing trust and partnerships that emphasize adapting the medical tools to the needs of the patients instead of the burden being on patients to adapt to the medical processes and standards that are unfamiliar to them.
At what age were you diagnosed with HIV?