aids 2012

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It’s World AIDS day, time to reflect on the impact of this epidemic, but also how we are tackling it together as sexual health advocates. One of the great phrases in recent discussion of HIV prevention is the one coined by Richard Horton of The Lancet in the foreword to their special journal on men having sex with men and HIV. It was a phrase that continues to ring in my ears way after I heard it at the Washington AIDS conference, way back in July.

The conference was exciting for the enthusiasm about how new technologies can further reduce HIV incidence; male circumcision and ARVs have shown in research settings to reduce HIV incidence by up to 66% and 96% respectively. The Conference corridors were awash with discussion of these breakthroughs and how this will bring to us to an ‘AIDS free generation’. However we remain skeptical over here at The Pleasure Project towers, as we counted condoms mentioned only four times in the opening ceremony. Why are we encouraged to focus our energies on the new technologies without consideration of how to improve our efforts to promote the perfectly good ones that already exist?

In the increasingly bio-medicalised world of HIV prevention there seems to be less and less discussions of the messy business of sex, pleasure and human beings as sexual beings. Some studies show that circumcised men go on to believe themselves immune to infection. So why then is there little discussion on the stages of HIV prevention on how to better communicate risk reduction and incidence reduction rather than risk elimination?

And talking of risk elimination where are the condoms, the safest penetrative sex, these days in dialogues of HIV prevention? Where are the sophisticated research projects that help us promote encourage mutual masturbation, phone sex, thigh sex: to have satisfying sex that is safe and feels good. We are not denying that penetration feels darn good (if done right) but at AIDS 2012 or in current discussions of HIV prevention you would think its the only way. There are  ‘many ways to skin a cat’ and sadly the HIV prevention world colludes to restrict our ideas of sex that can be satisfying.

A recent article in the The Huffington Post also points the figure at the family planning world, and says that it’s even worse. In the family planning world pleasure is not even a whisper round the corner in the next town. In fact the recent Family Planning Summit in London made no reference or mention of how people may also have sex for pleasure , and contraception suppliers might want to factor that into discussions of how people want to plan their families. After all wasn’t the invention of the pill a huge collective sigh of relief for women to be able to start having worry free sex. Until AIDS came along.

Looking through the coverage of World AIDS days another  sad omission that strikes us is the lack of any mention of  love or romance, a fairly universal driver of risky behaviour but also a critical dimension of satisfying sexual lives. at the AIDS conference I saw only one abstract highlighted how people take more health risks for love – and our evidence review “Everything you have ever wanted to know about Pleasure and Safer Sex, but were afraid to ask” turned up little in the way of studies of romance or falling in love.


The biggest sexual organ is the brain

Condoms and interesting and diverse ways to promote safer sex are getting lost in the usual scientific charge to find the next techno-fix or magic bullet. Funding incentives are on finding new drugs or products that will stem new infections; but really as we know it’s not that simple.  Human beings will use technologies in a myriad of ways. The sooner we start to see the pleasurable potential in prevention – as we are with microbicides as lube or female condoms as they rub us in that oh so special way – will we start to build on the reasons why we have sex not try and avoid the natural advantage we have for health promotion in sexual and reproductive health.

Its not all doom and gloom and we are pretty cheery activists, as they go. There have been some great articles recently about safer sex and pleasure and the link to empowerment.

So looking forward to the next World AIDS day in 2013 – we hope to see more realistic discussion about real sex, what feels good and how to use good safe sex techniques.


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How does the condom ration shape up ?  36 condoms per person at AIDS 2012; 15 condoms per Athlete at the Olympics




Okay it was the break-dancing with a female condom that gets a special mention. I mean we know lots about pleasure and female condoms over here, but we had never ever seen that. We caught the Washington female condom promotion team at the AIDS conference ‘global village’, and that is just what they were doing. Break-dancing with a female condom.  He was so fast I could not film him. You will just have to imagine it  (like those pre you tube days, remember ?)

So that’s what we want at the next worlds AIDS conference. Gold medals  for the plenary speakers to say sex and even better good safe sex. It’s not much to ask. Medals for biomedical researchers ( you know who you are) to admit they may have had sex once at least. A sexy condom demo that’s gets televised in the opening ceremony ( umm sorry we got carried away…)

In fact 850,000  Condoms were distributed at AIDS 2012 and 150,000 the Olympics. That means 36 per each participant at AIDS 2012 and a mere 15 per Olympian. So we will stop our quibbling over here at Pleasure Towers about condoms and celebrate. The brilliant woman in the Condomise zone must have done at least 20,000 demonstrations over the week did well to distribute so many.

Anyhow back on it and who deserves a pleasure award for talking dirty at aids 2012. Those female condom ladies (and gents) are

Willing Victims at our female condom and pleasure session

putting a ring on it, rolling their hips just so and vagina , well lit up our day. We love the Chicago female condom ‘ put a ring on it‘ campaign and we did a sexual pleasure and female condom workshop with them and others in the women’s networking zone.  Lets just say our sexy female condom demonstration, got um refined..

'sweeter on the penis'

The Universal Access to Female Condoms programme was attempting to break the world record for the longest  paper dolls chain with pledges for female condoms . There was lots of pleasure there on those dolls. See left and below.

Also Dante deserves a special mention for saying in the female condom press conference  ” female condoms are pleasurable and fun for bottoms” because they can be used for anal sex too..

Couple of other gold medals and loud cheers go to Kevin Mayer  in the brilliant Lancet medical journal session on men who have sex with men and HIV with his  ‘Sex is For pleasure’  statement. Sadly it still needs to be said. But great that an esteemed journal made the space to do that.

We think that’s about it for now, we still have to update you on our fabulous workshop and all the sudden sexy condom demo experts we have in the HIV prevention world.

Any other nominations out there for people and pleasure placements we missed ?  We had our pleasure net up but can’t catch it all.

Let us know who you think deserves a pleasure medal for service at AIDS  2012.


female condoms give me orgasms

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Sex has been eradicated from the conference, it’s almost as if it’s an airborne disease”

Okay so when we said that to WAMU radio we were feeling kinda blue and bio-medicalised out. They interviewed us after our satellite session to launch “Everything you ever wanted to know about pleasurable safer sex but were afraid to ask” . Also Facebook closed us out for three days for putting up one of our postcards : so we got a slap on the wrist for that ( free postcard for whoever guesses which one it was ) . Next time we will shut down. I’ll be careful but sign up for our mailing list he and for blog alerts here…

But after initial dismay at the lack of any discussions of condoms, safer sex or just good old fashioned sex in the first couple of days we started to cheer up because of the growing band of pleasure promoters  at aids conferences. We ain’t the single issue solo loonies anymore.


It kicked off with The Pleasure Project Hosted satellite at 7am Tuesday morning ….and people came ! Unbelievable and amazing. We didn’t go easy

on our audience with a sexy safe condom demo (7:05 am ) and then launched the evidence review “everything you ever wanted….”  by posing questions particularly suited to that time of the morning such as ” is sex rational?” ” what is sexual pleasure?” and ” do positive attitudes to sex correspond to positive attitudes to safer sex ? “. Read it for the quick and dirty and more considered answers.

Next up Dr Scott Shelton blew our minds talking about the evidence she has analyzed and how it shows that making your sex education programmes and materials a turn on means people have more safer sex. So not only is it appealing but it works. We knew that but it we needed to see those randomised control trials prove it. See question 15 in the review for more on her research.

Next up was DKT International who last year sold 650 million condoms in 18 countries and  kinda know a thing or two about good safe sex. Chris Purdy and Daniel Marun spoke about how they do this globally  We especially….. Like the moped ad…. You’ll see…..  What we mean about dotted….. Hello Fiesta Ribbed. All those presentations are here with the session description.

Ttitsi Masvaware  from the University of Columbia in New York has been focusing her research on  young southern African women and asking them why they have sex. And hello. They are not just saying that they are forced or raped or trafficked. Despite what most of the development literature tells you. They schedule it in. They want pleasure. As she said ” she told me that she had him....” read her talk Masvawure TB Pleasure Project Satellite IAS 2012 copy and see question 2 for more on her brilliant research that shows young women can be  ‘active lust seekers”.

And lastly but not least and the best titled talk at the conference by Professor Gary Dowsett and socked  it to us with the ‘choreography of sex’, the improvisation in sex, the messiness of sex, the skills of sex , the joy of it and all of it they we don’t usually hear at AIDS conferences…read it here Dowsett presentation

The questions afterwards were great with some  criticism of the images used to sexy up safer sex (more on that later because it deserves it own blog)

But what has been phenomenal is the number of other sessions at this conference on pleasure. We are normally the pleasure cultists, not any more.
The American health care foundation had a “making safer sex sexy” satilite where we heard on their campaign to get condoms into porn . We loved the presentation by from NYC condoms and their health department.  “ NYC will be awash with condoms and it’s river will run with lube” on how to saturate your city with condoms (and an app to find them whenever you need em!) and the chair thrilled us with her description of how she put her knowledge of cherry stem rolling in mouth to special use these days with a condom.

Other pleasure awards go to the IPPF youth group for their pleasure session on Thursday and keeping the pleasure flag flying with happy healthy ‘n’ hot. Some great questions and conversations “ how can you learn to flirt ? ” let’s remind ourselves that 48 % of new infections are in young people under 25 currently and we need to talk about safer sex and sexual skills for young people ALOT MORE . And another gripe there are just not enough of them at conferences presenting, sharing experiences and keeping the rest of us a bit more real. IPPF thrilled us with another condom controversy session on Sunday (with us and DKT) interjecting on erotic condoms which was standing room only. Go IPPF . You rock.

And another session I attended in the global village had interesting ways to start the pleasure conversation in the transgender community in Thailand. What I loved was that they did a pretend telephone call, as if a client was calling in and showed how they bring pleasurable safer sex into the conversation and talk anatomy and other sexy bits. How many chairs of sessions are brave enough to do that and lovely to see practical and tactical sex education at play.

So that’s a pleasure round up for now and it tales us up to Thursday at AIDS 2012 (there is more my active pleasure seekers)  and I have not even got to female condoms, the unsung hero of sexual health and some more pleasure awards he at aids 2012 .

You’ll just have to enjoy the delayed gratification…

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to know about pleasurable safer sex but were afraid to ask..

Is the topic that The Pleasure Project is tackling at AIDS 2012 in Washington conference next week. We have trawled the literature (just for you) to answer 20 question about pleasure, sex and health and it’s here all here..  Everything you ever wanted to know about pleasurable safer sex but were afraid to ask .

We are launching it at the  global AIDS conference in the USA next week (and in India later). It collects together global eviodence to answer tricky questions such as ‘ How long does it take to learn safer sex skills?’

If you are at AIDS 2012 come and hear some of the experts in sexuality and eroticising safer sex speak about the evidence at our Pleasureat 2012 Satilite or learn how to improve your sexy safer skills at our workshop. We are organizing event with DKT International, one of the world’s largest condom social marketing organisations and pleasure promoters .We are grateful to the Institure of Development Studies at University of Sussex who funded the evidence review.


We will also launch it in Delhi on the 28th July with the YP Foundation.

Here are more details of what we are up to next week in our poster TPP AIDS_Poster_v2.with support. pdf..and the link to our  facebook event page.

See you there … keep thinking of the tricky questions..





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