Using humor to promote safe sex, a Canadian television producer on Tuesday launched 20 short videos of animated condoms in 41 languages to help fight HIV/AIDS around the world.
The cartoons, called “The Three Amigos,” are a hit in South Africa, where they have run for nearly a year. Now they are available in more than 40 languages in an effort to get them aired in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe as well as elsewhere in Africa. “Animation creates a kind of sense of disbelief (so) it is much easier to get them accepted on national television,” producer Firdaus Kharas told a news conference at the United Nations. The Amigos’ — animated condoms called Dick, Shaft and Stretch — go on a series of adventures that include space travel, with the punch line, “No condom, no blastoff.” On an African safari, they warn: “It’s a jungle out there — carry protection.” There is only one segment that promotes a female contraceptive to avoid AIDS or HIV, which infected more than 5 million people last year alone, most of them in Africa. Kharas, who works with Brent Quinn, a South African screenwriter, said more than 320 people and groups raised money for the project, with some of the video production done in India. Industrialized countries are low on the distribution list because they are not high-risk AIDS nations, but the cartoons have been shown in Canada and the Netherlands. In different countries Kharas said he was not worried about “which approach is best so let’s try every approach.” “If you don’t have sex, you won’t get HIV. But if you have sex, use a condom,” he said. He is particularly keen to reach young people of between 15 and 25 in Latin America, Eastern Europe or Russia, China and India, which are on the cusp of an epidemic. Each DVD includes a message from South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu who said: “Young people, do not respond well on being told what to do even when if such instruction is in their own self interest. Animated characters are a non-threatening, non-authoritarian vehicle for communication.” Samples are available on the Web site www.thethreeamigos.org. (Source: Reuters Health, January 2005)