Condom clothes spark debate

Brazilian artist Adriana Bertini makes elaborate dresses and trouser suits out of condoms to show they are everyday objects and promote their use to prevent HIV/Aids.

The UN runs an interview with her, as she takes her exhibit to Senegal for the first time – with UNESCO funding. (They also have pictures of the dresses – which look beautiful.)

“Condoms are seen very negatively in our societies as a barrier to pleasure,” she says. “I want to talk about love with the condom as a way for people to be together.”

“When I work, I think a lot about the fear that AIDS causes in people, in my friends, who are impacted directly because of their past behaviour and the taboos and prejudice they face,” she adds.

And Bertini is the first to suffer from this discrimination.

“People think that, because I’m interested in condoms, I must be HIV-positive myself,” she says. “Some organisations won’t deal with me for that reason, people don’t want to talk to me or touch me out of fear of getting AIDS…A number of doors are closed to me as a result.”

She recounts examples of parents using the exhibit as an excuse to talk about sex with their children for the first time. But in Senegal – where Bertoni displays her clothes at a conference on HIV/Aids – she finds it hard to get visitors talking. I wonder – her “militant act” would hardly be necessary if people were comfortable with condoms.

It’s rewarding to know that my art has been recognised all over the world,” she said. “I felt the need to create a new form of thinking, to try to wake people up to the reality of the situation, to make them aware of the risks they face with HIV and AIDS.”