Spreading the Word
This feisty Filipina is at the forefront of educating people about condom use in the fight against AIDS.
Name: Joy Lynn Alegarbes
Homebase: New York City, New York
Why she’s an action figure:
Joy Lynn is a sexual health advocate and the director of global operations for The Condom Project (TCP).
In this role, Joy Lynn fights the battle against HIV/AIDS by developing culture-sensitive programs to de-stigmatize condom use and educate communities about their efficacy in HIV prevention. These programs are done in the 10 countries where TCP is present.
She also founded the sexual health education program for Camp TLC (Teens Living a Challenge) of the Joey DiPaolo AIDS Foundation, a summer camp for teenagers who are living with HIV or AIDS.
The makings of a sexual health advocate
Joy Lynn speaks: My work with condoms and sexual health education began in high school while volunteering with the HIV/AIDS theater group of the American Red Cross. In college, at New York University(NYU), I trained as a Sexual health Advocate at NYU’s Health Promotion Office.
Setting up Camp
When I first joined the workforce in 2001, it was as the sexual health director for Condomania, New York. I served spokesperson for all of Condomania’s film, television and media appearances.
Condomania was the first condom store in the US to offer a full range of condoms and safer sex products along with educational materials advocating their proper use. The aim was to help people make educated choices about safer sex through access to accurate information and non-judgmental consultation with our trained staff.
It was working as the Sexual Health Director for Condomania that I found a lack of resources about the use of condoms beyond prevention. There was not a lot of information about maintenance or living with HIV. I supplemented much of my training with self-conducted research and observation.
This also led me to create the sexual health education program for the Camp TLC (Teens Living a Challenge) in 2002. Camp “TLC” is a free summer camp for HIV-positive teenagers, ages 13 – 19. Many of the camp participants are born with HIV and almost all are orphans living with adoptive or foster parents.
The art of condom education
In 2004, I joined The Condom Project where my responsibilities were directed toward sexual health education through performance art.
The primary focus of The Condom Project (TCP) is to destigmatize condoms. It is impossible to even begin dialogue about the efficacy of condoms if people are not willing to say or even hear the word “condom”.
TCP works in 10 different countries — a culturally diverse audience. As global director for operations, my aim is to unite the global community through art-based educational programs about condoms that are culturally specific and appropriate. These creative strategies help open the door to the discussion of condoms.
One of these activities is called the Condom Art Pin – Making Program which involves physically putting a condom into someone’s hand and creating wearable usable art that just happens to be on a condom. It may seem like a simple activity but through a facilitated discussion by TCP, it is effective in engaging people to talk about myths or misperceptions about condoms.
Another is a forum for interactive condom education called the “TCP Condom Zone” where I have a display of condoms that are unrolled and inflated so that visitors can see different sizes, shapes, colors and textures available. I also educate them about a variety of lubricants that are available.
Risks & Rewards
One of the difficulties is how people treat me because of how they perceive the work I do. I do not encourage children to be sexually active or men to be unfaithful to their wives. I love my work, and the more time that I spend within a given community the less likely these things are to happen; but it is still one of the most difficult aspects of my job.
But the rewards of my job are worth it. One of the most fulfilling aspects of my work is watching the people I train become educators. In Ethiopia, a young man in one of my workshops told me he had never touched a condom. He did not understand its purpose since the condom wouldn’t fit over his testicles. I explained how a condom should be used, and we continued to have a discussion about the benefits of safer sex. When I returned to Ethiopia, the young man had become a peer health educator and was conducting condom trainings within his own community, providing people with clear and accurate information about condoms and HIV transmission.
About The Condom Project
The CONDOM PROJECT seeks to explore new ways of distributing lifesaving information and protection to those communities at risk of contracting and transmitting the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
What they do:
TCP communicates the preventive power of condoms in the transmission of HIV using non-traditional approaches through art, performance and educational programs. Through this venue, they create a safe place where people can feel comfortable talking about condoms and how through proper usage, they are effective in preventing HIV infection.
For more information, visit the TCP website at www.thecondomproject.org.
TCP’s mailing address in the US is:
The Condom Project
121 East 10th St. Suite A
New York, NY 10003