On World AIDS Day, Dec 1, the Malaysian AIDS Foundation together with The Body Shop and ESP Condoms will launch a social media-driven campaign that seeks to raise awareness of and evoke social change in response to the alarming rise in sexually transmitted HIV infections in this country.

“It is time Malaysians face the cold hard facts about HIV,” says Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, Chairman of the Malaysian AIDS Foundation. “Over 74% of new HIV infections in Malaysia last year were sexually transmitted, which is a drastic two-fold increase in just five years,” she says. “When an epidemic is driven by sexual transmission, women and men are equally at risk. This can be shown by the fact that the male-to-female new infection ratio now has narrowed from 10:1 to 4:1 within the span of just ten years.”

“Considering how sex, in all its complexity, remains largely a taboo in our culture, this is by far the most formidable challenge that we have had to face in our effort to stem HIV in Malaysia. Recognising this, we decided to reach out to two of our most dedicated partners in the fight against HIV – The Body Shop and ESP Condoms – for much needed support,” she adds.

#PutItOn is a year-long campaign beginning World AIDS Day 2014, with specially packaged boxes supplied by ESP Condoms across all The Body Shop outlets in the country.

Over 74% of new HIV infections in Malaysia last year were sexually transmitted, which is a drastic two-fold increase in just five years, says Malaysian AIDS Council.

“When we learned about just how sexual transmission of HIV in this country is on the rise, we knew the extent of the work that was cut out for us. We did not hesitate for one second to extend our full support to the Malaysian AIDS Foundation,” explains Datin Mina Cheah-Foong, the Managing Director of The Body Shop. The Body Shop has been selling condoms in the store for more than 20 years.

“As a brand that promotes equality and defends human rights, The Body Shop has been, and will continue to be at the forefront of social change, challenging inequities, injustices and barriers that impede equal access to health. HIV is highly preventable, and it really is as easy as putting on a condom. But many, especially women, are not empowered enough or find it shameful to hold a condom let alone buy and put one on. By selling these condoms in our stores, we are helping to empower our customers with the knowledge and courage to protect their health, and at the same time encouraging them to give back to communities affected by HIV,” she adds.

Each box contains three pieces of condoms and will be sold at RM5. All proceeds from the sale will go toward safe sex education, empowerment and other HIV intervention programmes run by Malaysian AIDS Foundation as well as the Malaysian AIDS Council and its partners for the benefit of some of the country’s most under-served and vulnerable populations.

First to heed the call to the campaign is celebrity Joey G, one of the Red Ribbon Celebrity Supporters of the Malaysian AIDS Foundation. “The rate at which sexual transmission of HIV is escalating in Malaysia leaves no room for complacency,” he says. “The immediate first step is to talk about it, and what better way to do that than by using social media platforms. Harnessing the full potential of social media, I hope to reach out to as many users, particularly young people, with accurate information about HIV and safe sex. But I certainly can’t do it alone, which is why I’m counting on the support of my friends and other celebrities to join me and activate #PutItOn.”

For ESP Condoms, the year is all about changing mindsets. Its contribution to the campaign is an extension of the premium condom producer’s ongoing commitment to eliminating barriers to empowerment and safety, often caused by taboos, myths, misconceptions and stigma associated with HIV and AIDS.

#PutItOn will be trending across all social media platforms of the Malaysian AIDS Foundation @myAIDScouncil, The Body Shop @TheBodyShop_MY and ESP Condoms @espcare. Fans and followers are invited to heat up the conversation and post photos and messages with #PutItOn. A series of in-store events is expected to fill the 2015 calendar to further promote the campaign.