Ted Kerr and Chris Jones
This poster was inspired by the work and lived experience of Chaplain Jones, a black HIV-positive Baptist minister and activist, who is passionate about raising awareness around the lived experience of black and brown men who have sex with others men and their disproportionate rate of HIV infection in the West, which rivals infection rates in third world countries.
The burning condom, (and litany text), are shared by Jones, and collaborator Ted Kerr, with the intention of igniting public discourse around the condom. Since the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (Play Fair, 1982) and Richard Berkowitz and Michael Callen (How to Have Sex in an Epidemic, 1983) first popularized the use of condoms as an AIDS prevention strategy there has been little public discourse around the holistic impact of condoms on the lives the latex barrier is said to be saving. In an age where condoms are—for some—a loaded symbol of “AIDS Inc” and the systemic discrimination leveled against profiled and monitored bodies, and at a time pharmaceutical interventions such as PEP and PrEP are seemingly reducing the need for condoms, what is one to make of the rubber?
Key to this conversation are the various understandings and attachments people have to condoms, often related to age, life chances, race, orientation, faith, gender and class.
The burning condom is the fire around which we can gather, listen and discuss.
Litany for Burning Condoms
It’s hard to stay silent when faced with burning condoms.
We burn condoms to say we are whole.
We burn condoms to say we matter.
We burn condoms to remember.
We burn condoms to say that public health does not have all the answers.
We burn condoms to exercise our voice and power of choice.
We burn condoms to merge the secular with the spiritual.
We burn condoms to influence thought and change.
We burn condoms because they are not enough.
We burn condoms because they are too much.
We burn condoms because the kids want more.
We burn condoms because sex is not just penetrative.
We burn condoms because they do not protect against stigma.
We burn condoms because they add to stigma.
We burn condoms because they are not they only answer.
We burn condoms because they are distributed in our name.
We burn condoms because we believe in harm reduction.
We burn condoms because we know it is complex.
We burn condoms because it’s a primordial act.
We burn condoms because we know they save lives but they also erase them.
We burn condoms because if you are going to give me something free make it health care education or a place to live.
We burn condoms because by 2015 approximately 27 billion condoms will be distributed across the globe bringing 6 billion dollars to the condoms industry.
We burn condoms because if you are going to pass me something pass mean end to racism sexism gender roles homo and heteronomativity transphobia profiling and policing.
We burn condoms for those unheard & populations underserved.
We burn condoms for the good & the bad and the light & the shade & the dark.
We burn condoms in the age of the Global AIDS Industrial Complex.
We burn condoms in our friend ’s backyard.
We burn condoms as two men living together on the HIV spectrum.
We burn condoms as a ritual which can be activism.
We burn condoms like a draft card for a war we didn‘t sign up for.
It’s hard to burn condoms. It takes time, partnership, and patience.
It’s dangerous, stinky, challenging, beautiful and shocking.
It’s life giving.
What ‘s your response when faced with burning condoms?