Today is World AIDS Day. The past couple of days have seen the hashtag #1share1condom pop up on my twitter feed. Being the curious sort, I discovered that it was a Durex campaign to donate condoms to help fight HIV. You retweet (or share on facebook or renren) one of their facts about HIV and AIDS with the hashtag, they donate a condom to “a local charity”. Sounds good, right?
Actually, this sort of thing makes me really uncomfortable.
I’m one of those awkward discourse analyst types, so naturally my mind immediately goes to what’s not being said here. If I look past the corporate social responsibility speak, what I see is the distribution of life-saving condoms being based on how many slacktivists (and I include myself in that term) can be bothered to retweet something. Durex has a target of 2.5 million condoms; what if that target isn’t reached? Are they going to withhold aid because not enough people shared their facts or used their hashtag? Admittedly I haven’t done much digging, but I haven’t seen anything about minimum donations or what they’ll do if their target isn’t met and this concerns me.
Of course, Durex could just donate 2.5 million condoms – but then they wouldn’t have their brand all over twitter.
I completely agree that it’s important to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS. As someone involved in LGBT welfare I’ve given out countless free condoms and advice on safer sex. At any other time I’d be glad to see awareness of HIV and AIDS seeping into my feed because this is a really important, global issue. I’d also be glad to see free condoms being distributed to those who need them. I’d be even happier if those condoms were accompanied by advice on safer sex, addressing the stigma of HIV and AIDS and empowering women and sex workers. Tackling HIV and AIDS means addressing a host of complex issues including education, stigma, gender, homophobia and transphobia, poverty and religion. It’s too important to be a social media campaign.
Durex’s facts are horrifying:
3.4m children under 15 are living with HIV.
30m people have died from AIDS in 30 years.
HIV is the leading cause of death in women of reproductive age.
7000 people per day are infected with HIV.
Surely people’s lives are worth more than how many retweets something gets?