Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 29, No.10

February 10, 2005


Make the condom your amigo and help prevent AIDS

By Lina Shoumarova

Left to right: Jonathan Wener, Michèle Gauthier, Martine Lehoux.


Three jovial animated condoms, Shaft, Stretch and Dick, walk into an airport, have their tickets checked by a character in a yellow radioactive costum, and board the plane. “The right protection for all destinations. Use a condom, stop the spread of AIDS,” announces a firm female voice.

This is one of 20 public service announcements, or PSAs, created by Canadian media producer Firdaus Kharas and his colleague Brent Quinn from South Africa.

The series of humorous animated sketches, named The Three Amigos, is part of a behaviour modification program designed to promote the use of condoms to stop the spread of the deadly disease.

Firdaus Kharas was at Concordia on Jan. 27 to talk about this ambitious media prevention campaign.

“From the very beginning, this disease has been plagued by silence,” Kharas said, addressing a crowd of about 200 people in the Hall Building. “It is a huge communication problem.” This year alone, six million people might be affected.

Kharas saw the devastation the virus has caused in Africa and decided to actually do something about it. He got involved in Brent Quinn's initiative to create an animation series with friendly condoms as its main characters.

The project became reality with the dedicated work of more than 80 volunteers from Canada, South Africa and India. To this day, the project is carried on completely by volunteers, including Kharas himself.

The PSAs have been translated into 41 languages and are continuously broadcast in South Africa, the Netherlands, and on OMNI channel in Toronto. The goal of the creators is to reach as many people as possible around the globe and so they offer the series for free to broadcasters, NGOs and community organizations.

In particular, they target Indonesia, China, Russia, Eastern Europe and the Caribbean region, where the spread of the virus is on a steep rise.

“The world has turned its attention from prevention to finding a cure, but prevention is the only way to stop AIDS.”

The purpose of The Three Amigos is to open up dialogue about this stigma-ridden disease by building awareness that safe sex stops AIDS. In order to achieve that, the creators use comedy as a strategy.

“Humour creates something memorable and generates a new and positive image for the use of condoms,” Kharas said in his lecture. Since comedy is not universal, every country has its own favourite, funniest PSA.

The sketches are geared to people 16 to 24 years of age, but the targeted audience is anyone who is sexually active.

The series also educates about less-publicized issues, such as the female condom; a good-natured female creature is in one of the sketches. This has had a positive impact on women in Africa, Kharas explained, because many didn't know about the existence of the female condom. Women's empowerment is one of the major goals of the Three Amigos campaign.

Kharas and Quinn will create more PSAs that will address other topics related to HIV/AIDS prevention, such as abstinence, faithfulness, and gay issues.

The Three Amigos campaign is less than a year old, but it has already won 25 international awards and festival selections.

Kharas’s lecture, “Condoms: Media Messages in a Trans-Cultural Context,” was part of Concordia's HIV/AIDS Lecture Series, which is now in its twelfth season. He also led a workshop for student animators the next day under the title Pitch Clips! Save Lives! Safer Sex!

For more information about this project, go to There you can view some of the PSAs and their translated versions.