The raTrust was founded on the principle that prevention was far better than waiting for a cure when it comes to HIV. Even before I had formally set up the raTrust as an HIV prevention charity I was out on the streets making sure that those most at risk had adequate protection. That principle remains with us to this day.
In 2013 I purchased and distributed 260,000 condoms, using my own money. The ideas was to spread advice and help to young people, to sex workers and to anyone who needed it, as well as keeping them safe. I was learning as I went, working with those who were living with HIV as well as those who though they may be infected but were too afraid to be tested.
My aim was not to judge but simply to help. I knew that condoms were the best way for everyone to remain safe, regardless of their HIV status or diagnosis, so I set about handing out condoms as I travelled the UK, learning more about the spread of HIV and the people that it touched.
What I found, as I travelled, was that the message was already out there about safe sex and condom use, but people were still not paying attention. So many people thought that ‘just this once’ was safe behaviour and even believed old wives’ tales about both pregnancy and the spread of STIs.
Boys said that they didn’t like the sensation of condoms and girls didn’t want to be judged for carrying them. So condom-free sex was often a dangerous default for many youngsters. I like to think that my free condoms at least helped a little here, but I still think a wider campaign is needed to celebrate and endorse condom use.
So, we at the raTrust have decided to start an Army of Protection, to positively promote condom use. We want to hear why people love condoms, but why they hate them too. There is no point in promoting condom use if we can’t address the negative perceptions about them and then discuss these with young people, those at risk of HIV and even condom manufacturers.
So, join our Army of Protection. Spread the word on social media, use our hashtag #armyofprotection and let us know what you think of condoms. You can help us to save lives.
Dominika Rejmer – Director and founder, The raTrust.