Innovative uses of condoms, as reported by UNFPA country officers

Note: the stories here won’t be found in official UN country reports, as they are transcribed from a night out drinking with my colleagues, but I assure you they are true…

It is UNFPA/UN Cares/UNAIDS policy to have condoms available at all office bathrooms. A friend at the office who used to work in Paupa New Guinea noticed that every time a new supply was put out, it would be gone. So she finally asked the women working in the office, “where are all the condoms going??”. She looked over to see her colleague with an opened wrapper, using the condom’s lubricant on her arm – as a moisturizer. 🙂

Similar stories began to unfold this evening, out to dinner with friends. Here’s a brief summary:

UN Papua New Guinea: women use lubricant from the condoms as moisturizer

UN Jordan: women open up condoms to store their earrings and other jewelry in transit

Thailand: male students use the lubricant covered condoms to shine their shoes for their school uniform

Vietnam: youth catwalk fashion shows w/ outfits made of condoms & pills (see photo)


Thailand National AIDS Seminar, 27-29 May 2009

Hello friends!

To continue in Javi’s footsteps, here’s an update from my summer in Bangkok, Thailand. I arrived at BKK late Friday evening and spent Saturday and Sunday exploring my neighborhood and even managed to navigate the mall to get my cell phone service set up.

Monday was my first day at the UN – I finally got to meet my preceptor, whom I’ve been corresponding with via e-mail for the past 6 months, and other friendly colleagues. I sit at a cubicle in an office with members of the UNFPA Thailand country office and the East Asia/Southeast Asia regional office. I’d say one of the most notable bits to share from here is that the food is DELICIOUS and SO inexpensive! The UN building has 2 cafeterias with international cuisine and traditional Thai dishes, and then there’s a café with sandwiches, salads, etc. I’d say I pay an average of $1-2 for my meals (good sized portions, too!)- with a drink, dessert, and after-meal coffee, I’ll probably pay max $4 in all. 🙂

Now onto the more important stuff…! Today, I was fortunate to attend the Thailand National AIDS Seminar, held at a huge convention center in Bangkok.

Photos: archway at the convention center. ‘Walking condoms’

This is the 12th annual seminar, originally started in conjunction with the US CDC, the International Epidemiological Association (IEA), and other leaders in HIV/AIDS in the Asia Pacific region, but has now grown into a large scale 3-day event, expanding beyond members of the HIV community to the general population (elementary school to college-aged students, clinicians, people living with HIV, political leaders, celebrities…. everyone, really!).

photo: Prime Minister of Thailand

The seminar is organized into plenary sessions of leaders discussing key issues in HIV (female condoms, ‘staying negative’, etc.) and a large exhibition room with over 100 booths from community based organizations and NGOs, providing blood tests, screenings, and information on counseling, medication, and prevention. Posters from recent investigations and journal publications were on display. There was also entertainment provided by local dance troupes and musicians.

The opening ceremonies featured remarks from the ministry of health, a woman living with HIV, and the prime minister of Thailand. I got a quick translation after the audience erupted in laughter when the woman living with HIV looked to the prime minister and asked “Sir, can you please be a good role model to our country and have one partner?”. Later in the opening session, the PM did respond directly to her question and said that it would be no problem to stay with only his wife.
The UNFPA had a booth next to UNAIDS, UNICEF, the World Bank, and other UN agencies. The UNFPA Youth Advisory Panel was on board to distribute information, host a quiz game with prizes, and get people to sign up for the online HIV/AIDS Solution Exchange program. There were booths sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, sex worker and MSM advocacy groups, and youth organizations. One of my favorite sites was of a traditional Thai farming basket carrying exotic fruits and… condoms! They gave them out to everyone. 🙂

Oh, another quick note… I almost forgot about my ‘encounter’ w/ swinefluness during my voyage over the pacific. It looks as though several airlines and airports have taken (in my opinion) more extreme cautions concerning H1N1. I took ANA from DC to Tokyo then Tokyo to Bangkok. All flight attendants working for ANA are required to wear facemasks at all times on board. I also noticed several passengers sporting the masks. Every passenger on the flights arriving in Japan and in Thailand is required to fill out a medical form, stating the purpose of travel, prior stays before travel to destination, and a series of yes/no questions on H1N1 symptoms. A few hours before we landed in Tokyo, an announcement was made that ‘a passenger on board has reported potential symptoms and the flight will be inspected upon arrival. Thank you for your patience with the delay…”. When our flight landed, health officials and quarantine inspectors came on board to look at the passenger ‘with symptoms’ on board, and also to test everyone who sat within 5 rows in either direction. Lucky for me, I was sitting just a few rows before the inspection zone and was able to deplane with just a 15-minute delay.

Whoops, didn’t mean to write this much! Hope everyone has had a great start to the summer!


YSPH runs for Africa!

Congrats to Tyler Griswold, 4th place overall finisher in the Yale New Haven Run4Africa. The run supported Shoes4Africa, which began in 1995, collecting excess shoes and taking them over to Africa to foster positive change. It has evolved into support of a vast network of community events, complete with a platform for education and health awareness. This year, the run raised money and collected well over 100 pairs of shoes to deliver to communities in Africa. Lesley Park and Catherine Nichols finished off the top three runners from the Yale School of Public Health. 🙂

…pictures to come…

Public Health & Technology Conference

Public Health & Technology Conference

May 1st in Boston

Sign up with the Yale Public Health AIDS Walk Team!

click here to our team webpage to sign up today!

and if you sign up by April 10, you’ll get a free Yale Public Health team t-shirt. Don’t miss out!
(e-mail questions to