The Three Amigos: Funny Condoms with a serious mission

For some reason, my blog post with the highest number of daily hits for the past few days has been what I wrote in mid April: ‘Beware of Vatican Condoms – and global warming’.

I’m not sure if the interest is really in condoms, the Vatican or global warming, but since we must be demand-driven, here’s a new condom story! It concerns the three funniest condoms I’ve met.

Image courtesy Three Amigos website

They are called The Three Amigos – they are three differently shaped and coloured condoms, each with distinctive personality. They go places — certainly more than your average condom — to airports, forests, football games, recording studios, even television talk shows!

They are funny, amiable and out to have a good time. Occasionally they are also fallible and gullible — just like many humans are.

And like many of us, they grapple with hard choices in life – for example, between caution and temptation, or between right and wrong.

So far there are 20 adventures of The Three Amigos — each no longer than a minute: in those precious few seconds, a compact story is told with stunning effect. Talk about packing a punch.

Wherever they go, and whatever they do, the three friends have one mission: to remind us of many ways in which we can help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The Three Amigos is a series of twenty Public Service Announcements (PSAs) in the form of short comedic sketches, featuring three animated, talking condoms. Some 80 volunteers in Canada, India and South Africa have created this ground-breaking behaviour modification programme to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.

It is a multi-award winning series that has been endorsed by Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who believes these PSAs are a powerful communicating tool to encourage people to change their behaviour.
Read Desmond Tutu letter here
See testimonials from all over.

The Three Amigos The Three Amigos The Three Amigos The Three Amigos

The Three Amigos is a north-south joint production. Its producers are Brent Quinn of South Africa and Firdaus Kharas of Canada. They are jointly responsible for the project and its contents.

Firdaus Kharas, who was also the Director of the series, is Ottawa-based and specializes in the creation of television programmes, feature films and animation. Most of the productions are international in creation and on international themes such as children’s rights.

We met Firdaus in person when TVE Asia Pacific organised the International AIDS Film Festival 2004 in Bangkok, as part of the XV International AIDS Conference held in the Thai capital.

We screened The Three Amigos every day, always to a packed house. Amidst the often depressing, long-format documentaries dealing with the death and misery unleashed by HIV (very much part of the HIV story), the animated cartoons livened up the audience — and showed that discussing HIV on television can be funny yet serious at the same time.

Producer Firdaus Kharas at TVEAP's AIDS Film Festival 2004 Producers Brent Quinn (L) and Firdaus Kharas

Earlier this month, July 2007, I showed a dozen of The Three Amigos PSAs as part of my presentation on ‘Who is afraid of Moving Images?’ at the regional communication capacity building workshop under our Saving the Planet project, held in Khao Lak, Thailand.

Our participants, all engaged in non-formal education through civil society organisations from South and Southeast Asia, had interesting things to say about The Three Amigos. In conservative Philippines that extends the Vatican’s dictates, for example, our friends can’t go very far — and it was uncertain if they could go on the air at all.

In conservative yet secular India, some of it could get on broadcast television – but not the more explicit ones. Clearly, making fun of sex, sexuality and sexual habits is a very delicate task, and such humour does not always travel across cultures.

In Thailand itself, The Three Amigos will have no problems of media and public acceptance. After all, condom use has been popularised by the well known Senator Mechai Viravaidya, better known as Mr Condom.

Read what Senator (Mr Condom) Viravaidya and actor Richard Gere said at our AIDS Film Festival 2004 in Bangkok.

As Asia grapples with an increasing incidence of HIV, countries will have to make some hard choices on confronting the epidemic. One choice is how to make the best use of tried and tested, existing public educational materials like The Three Amigos, all too willing to traverse Asia spreading their message: use condoms to stop AIDS.

Watch The Three Amigos online at their website

How to order tapes of The Three Amigos

PS: The website is careful to stress this:
“These PSA’s should be used as one component only in a comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention programme. The PSA’s will not be appropriate in all settings and in all cultures and careful evalualtion of the appropriateness of each PSA should be made.”

One Response to “The Three Amigos: Funny Condoms with a serious mission”

  1. spanish league goals Says:

    Hey, I just wanted to say what a excellent website. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it fascinating reading. Looking forward to your next post!

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