I quite vividly recall one situation that I encountered in my work as peer educator in Pretoria, South Africa. It happened when I had just started doing this work. In the area where I live, I was establishing myself as a peer educator and I wanted to meet other gay men. So I invited friends of friends to my house, and during little sessions we spoke together casually. Men also came to my house every time they needed condoms and lubrication. There was this man who regularly came to me to take condoms and lube. On one of these occasions, he explained to me that he liked to go to clubs and darkrooms where men who have sex with men generally meet. He told me that he always used two condoms instead of one, to be twice protected in an environment with a lot of sexual activity. Men who visit these clubs often fear they might get infections, such as HIV.
Two condoms at the same time… At first, I thought the man was not serious. Because every pack of condoms comes with basic instructions, and everyone knows how to use a condom – this is what I thought then. For me it was very hard to understand that there are people still embracing these kinds of myths. So I sat down with the man and explained to him that when you use two condoms, you are actually at higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV, than when you use one. Because two condoms could rub against each other, which increases the chance of breaking. I also advised him that, if he felt unsafe with latex condoms, maybe he should use femidomes (female condoms), which are made of polyurethane, which is stronger than latex. Femidomes can also be used for male anal sex, and they are very easy to use.
Everyone knows how to use a condom – this is what I thought then
All this time, the man had been visiting me and taking condoms, and to my knowledge he was using them correctly. However, suddenly I became aware that there are people out there who are putting themselves at risk for contracting HIV, only because of lack of proper knowledge. The man told me that in his circle of friends using two condoms was a common trend to protect themselves. At this point, I knew something needed to happen. Nowadays, when I speak with a client about protection, I always mention how to use a condom. My work is not just about giving away condoms, but also about educating people. Giving the right information – it might seem a little thing, but in the end these kind of little things can make a big difference in a person’s life. This is exactly why I do this work and why it is so important to me.