“Sex, Seniors & the HIV Crisis,” a Gray Panthers meeting in New York City last year, featured an HIV-positive grandmother as speaker. Jane Fowler, 69 years old, is a retired journalist who lives in Kansas City. As the leading spokesperson on this issue, is well aware there are thousands of women in the U.S. who resemble the woman she once was—uninformed about STDs, sexually transmitted diseases, and safe sex..
Divorcing in her late fifties, Jane began a relationship with someone “very nice,” a longtime family friend. Wanting to change her health insurer, she was startled by a call from the insurance company. She'd been turned down, was told her to call her own physician for the reason. Her doctor—who had never discussed how she might be at risk for HIV infection once she returned to the dating scene, had to break the bad news: Jane was HIV-positive. Because she found out in time and began treatment immediately, her life was saved.
Her experience transformed Jane into a crusading advocate for women over 50. Facts and resources fill her website, HIV Wisdom for Women. While planning for the meeting and knitting as usual, the idea of Condom Amulets came to me. Could be a decorative way to start a conversation,
“What’s that you’re wearing?” “A new public health idea—a condom amulet!”
Through the ages, amulets--often small pouches like the ones I knit--have been used to protect the wearer from evil in the universe.
The Princetonian amulet in yesterday's blog owes its life to Sheila Levine, another knitter. The orange and black yarn was left over from a scarf for a Princeton alumnus' birthday present. “Here,” she said, “this swatch may be the right size for one of your amulets.” It was perfect. Could this start a new fashion statement: matching scarves and condom amulets in school colors? Sheila’s square was a perfect fit for the skinny blue condom peeking from one end.
This project was an extraordinary consciousness-raiser quite for me. I learned a great deal about an publicized women’s health problem and discovered the creativity in condom design--round, square, flavored. Not the condoms we knew back in the sixties.
Condom Amulets modelled at Condomania, the famous store for safe sex supplies in Greenwich Village