Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Pop art protection: How these funky condoms could save countless lives

April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)
The Center for African Family Studies (CAFS) has joined forces with Kenyan artist Michael Soi to create eye-catching condom wrappers to promote safe sex. The Center for African Family Studies (CAFS) has joined forces with Kenyan artist Michael Soi to create eye-catching condom wrappers to promote safe sex.
HIDE CAPTION
Changing attitudes
Pop art protection
Eye-catching designs
Artistic reproduction
Social stigma
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kenyan youth face social stigmas purchasing condoms, according to the Center for African Family Studies in Nairobi
  • The NGO has launched a crowdfunding campaign to start a line of pop art condoms
  • They say putting art on packaging disguises condoms and encourages safe sex

African Voices is a weekly show that highlights Africa's most engaging personalities, exploring the lives and passions of people who rarely open themselves up to the camera. Follow the team on Twitter.

(CNN) -- Packaging can change how people see things. And when it comes to sex, it could maybe help save lives too.

The Center for African Family Studies (CAFS), a Nairobi-based international NGO, has teamed up with Kenyan artist Michael Soi to create an eye-catching condom line with pop art-inspired packaging to promote safe sex and raise awareness about HIV/AIDS.

The group has turned to crowdsourcing website Indiegogo to raise funds for its campaign, which aims to encourage condom usage among local youth in a country where an estimated 1.6 million people struggle with HIV/AIDS.

"They were giving out free condoms when I went to the HIV conference in Cape Town recently," says CAFS director of operations Jonathan Spangler. "These condoms were brightly colored, like nothing seen in Kenya -- glow in the dark, different flavors, different prints. We put a picture of them on Facebook and we had youth calling us up asking where they could purchase them," he adds.

Most people aren't very open to the idea that very young people might walk into a shop just to buy condoms.
Genevieve Imbali, communications and marketing officer, CAFS

"We've never had that sort of reaction to CAFS programs. So we said why don't we try produce our own condom line because there seems to be a market. We want to innovate and create new programming that is sustainable and even generates income for the youth," he adds..

Stigma vs. safety

HIV/AIDS continues to be one of the most prominent public health obstacles many African countries face today. In recent years, the disease -- which had reached epidemic proportions -- has started to decline in Kenya as a result of stronger public awareness campaigns and the impact of local education programs.

While the outlook is positive, campaigners say more needs to be done to continue to reduce the threat of HIV/AIDS in the country -- a start could be made by tackling the stigma surrounding the purchase of condoms.

"Most people are actually very afraid of going to vendors in supermarkets and chemists to buy condoms because we are a fairly reserved society," explains Genevieve Imbali, communications and marketing officer at CAFS.

"Most people aren't very open to the idea that very young people might walk into a shop just to buy condoms because nobody wants to be known to be having sex ... There is so much stigma associated with condom purchase in the country."

Eye-catching designs

To address this, the bright packaging of CAFS' colored condoms is specifically designed to disguise the product inside.

It's important to try and play a part and make sure that people will not go through the same mistakes as what my generation has gone through.
Michael Soi, artist

Imbali explains that by making condoms less obvious, more people will be willing to buy them. She also says that the condoms currently available in the country are either too expensive or low quality -- issues, she claims, will be tackled with the CAFS condom line.

"For the condoms that are given out for free at schools, the youth still do not take them," argues Imbali. "They look at them and think: 'You know what, you are giving this for free but they are not good quality.' So they'd probably just have unprotected sex rather than use the ones that are easily accessible."

Collaborating with artists

But getting an artist to agree to provide designs for the packaging became a struggle. Many didn't want their work associated with sex and CAFS hit a roadblock -- until they met with Michael Soi.

The Nairobi-based artist is well-known for his bold, but often controversial, themes placed within his paintings. Unafraid to shy away from taboo subjects like sex and interracial relationships, Soi was more than happy to collaborate with the NGO.

"I felt like everybody is basically trying to deal with this whole issue -- HIV, unwanted pregnancies -- and when I talk about everybody I mean the church is doing whatever they can, the government is doing whatever they can," says Soi.

"I felt the project was a good thing. I wanted to try to chip in and create something that would help fight a good fight," he says.

Soi explains that sex isn't discussed openly and that as a result many young people learn about the dangers of unprotected sex the hard way -- through experience. However, he does believe awareness is increasing and he hopes his work will continue to change attitudes surrounding sex in Kenya.

"I think it's important to try and play a part and make sure that people will not go through the same mistakes as what my generation has gone through."

READ THIS: How medics saved lives at Westgate

READ THIS: Tales of triumph from a top surgeon

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
African Voices
October 7, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Starting a business is never easy, but in Tanzania, the obstacles for women can be particularly fierce.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
Through a variety of exhibitions including one signed off by the artist himself, Nigeria is presenting J.D. Okhai Ojeikere to the world one last time.
September 8, 2014 -- Updated 1322 GMT (2122 HKT)
Neurosurgeon Kachinga Sichizya talks about caring for newborns and mothers from underprivileged backgrounds.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1508 GMT (2308 HKT)
Mulatu Astake may be the father of a musical genre: Ethio-jazz. But when he talks about the art form, he tends to focus on its scientific merits.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 0953 GMT (1753 HKT)
Daniel
Kenyan funny man Daniel "Churchill" Ndambuki chooses five emerging comics from the continent to keep an eye on -- they are going to be big!
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1044 GMT (1844 HKT)
African contemporary art is thriving, says author Chibundu Onuzo.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1010 GMT (1810 HKT)
Photographer Ernest Cole made it his life mission to capture the injustice of apartheid in South Africa.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1239 GMT (2039 HKT)
Mulenga Kapwepwe
Mulenga Kapwepwe has single-handedly created an explosion of arts in Zambia.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0936 GMT (1736 HKT)
In the largely male-dominated world of the motorsport, South African superbike racer Janine Davies is an anomaly.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1249 GMT (2049 HKT)
Nelson Mandela
Adrian Steirn and the 21 ICONS team have captured intimate portraits of some of South Africa's most celebrated. Here he reveals the story behind the photographs.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 0926 GMT (1726 HKT)
Explore a series of artistic street portraits designed to pay tribute to the people of the Sudanese capital.
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1557 GMT (2357 HKT)
A growing list of popular African authors have been steadily picking up steam --and fans -- across the globe over the last several years.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1835 GMT (0235 HKT)
South Africa Music Legends stamps
Artist Hendrik Gericke puts a spotlight on iconic musical legends from South Africa in these incredible monochrome illustrations.
Each week African Voices brings you inspiring and compelling profiles of Africans across the continent and around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT