Lee Rudolph suggested storm drains as a source of condoms that can be turned into hairbands. But Jakarta’s storm drains function are the city’s official waste collection system; filtering the condoms out of the assembled detritus would be daunting even to the city’s thousands of diligent garbage pickers. So Indonesia is importing used condoms from Germany instead — over 25 tonnes of them, according to a report in Kompas.
That’s a LOT of hairbands (if Indonesia is turning used condoms into hairbands, as China says it is). Chris Green (yes, that Chris Green) points out that the timing of the imports is perfect. With the help of French beauty group L’Oreal, Indonesia has just launched a programme to get hairdressers talking to their clients about AIDS. It’s not clear whether their inspirational chats come with free condoms, or indeed hairbands. But one hopes that they are more inspiring than the Discovery-channel style nature videos that L’Oreal and UNESCO have produced in support of the programme. Over pictures of tropical islands bathed in sunlight, a sacharine voice intones: “The beauty of an island can be a distraction that hides the serenity and the danger that lie on the ocean floor.” This is supposed to send us all rushing off for HIV tests. It makes me want to stuff used condoms down the self-satisfied, oh-so-non-judgmental-but-empathetic throat of the disembodied voice-over.
We should applaud companies that invest in HIV prevention. But if L’Oreal could make its AIDS videos even a fraction as hip and happening as its hair gel ads, they’d inform a lot more hairdressers, and perhaps even some of the people most likely to be hanging out shooting up drugs and having lots of sex.