ANTWERP - Today is World AIDS Day. More and more young people in Belgium get infected with HIV. Last thursday I was at the Finissage of the Eastpak Artists Studio in Antwerp with my dear friend and video blogger Jonas Reszczynski (YouTube.com/JonasReszczynski). For this project, Eastpak lets young artists use their imagination on Eastpaks most classic backpacks. But it's not only about creative freedom, the backpacks will be auctioned and the money will go to the charity organisation Designers Against AIDS (DAA). Raising awareness about HIV/AIDS amongst youngsters is an absolute necessity!
Belgian topmodel Hannelore Knuts was the host of the evening and while everybody stared at her from a distance, I took the opportunity to have a little chat with her.
Me: What does DAA likes to achieve with this project?
HANNELORE KNUTS: “I think it's important that youngsters, especially in Western countries, use protection while having sex. In Belgium the rate of people that are infected with HIV increased with 8%, while in some African countries the rate is going down. Youngsters are informed in Western countries, but don't care. That is really alarming!”
Me: “Why did DAA chose you for ambassador?”
KNUTS: “I can help by solely using my face. It's a fact that celebrity endorses work to convince young people. Also designer brands like H&M, Marc Jacobs, etc... have joined DAA in the past and Designers Against Aids are using those endorses to convince young people to use a condom. Because protection is the only prevention when it comes down to HIV/AIDS. It's also a matter that I care deeply about. Our youngsters should protect themselves. I've been asked to support a lot of different projects in the past but with DAA I know I can make a change.”
Me: Are condoms considered “uncool”?
KNUTS: “Yes, young people think that condoms are uncool. It's a mindset that people have. They think that nothing will happen to them, but sadly that's a misconception. Smoking cigarettes used to be considered cool. But now it appears that youngsters made a change, and now smoking is considered “uncool”. That's exactly what DAA likes to achieve, a change in the way people look at condoms.”
Me: How do you change a mindset, is that even possible for a whole generation?
KNUTS: “By spreading the message that condoms are in fact, very cool! It is the only prevention, this is such an important message to bring across. I feel it's our responsibility to change how people think about condoms. Change is always hard, but nothing is impossible. We should raise our voices and scream: sex is fun and safe sex is cool and while screaming that we should throw buckets filled with condoms at them!”
So, love freely, love wildly, love intensely but especially love safely. And know your status. #keepsafeandcarryone, spread the message!