Anna Kournikova Goes Condom Shopping for a Cause
by Kevin Doyle
What is Anna Kournikova doing in Haiti buying condoms? And how was I lucky enough to live out a fantasy shared by millions of young men around the world? Find out after the jump.
Last week I found myself condom shopping with Anna Kournikova. But that's where the fantasy ends and hard reality begins. The
former tennis star (and current celebrity sex symbol) and I were
traveling in Haiti with Population Services International (PSI), a
nonprofit group that's waging a global war against malaria, HIV, and
PSI's ammunition in this battle is a combination of education and
public-awareness campaigns, as well as malaria nets, water purification
products and, yes, condoms, all of which it sells at extremely
subsidized prices, or, as is often the case in Haiti, gives away to
those too poor to pay. Anna's condom purchase was a symbolic one, to
show the relative ease of preventing the spread of HIV--a message PSI
drives home in the more than 60 countries in which it operates.
Condé Nast Traveler joined forces with PSI last year and has raised nearly $1 million to support its Five & Alive program, which is focused on the children's health. I've heard plenty about PSI's work around the world, but never fully understood the impact it's making until I saw some of its projects firsthand.
But before I get to that, let me give you a little background on Haiti. The island was a Caribbean holiday destination for the rich and famous in the 1960s, but corrupt government, environmental disasters and other misfortunes have left it a shell of its former self. It's the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with most of its 9 million inhabitants living on less than 50 cents a day. Fewer than 1 in ten people has running water, there's not a sewer in the country, and the average life expectancy is 52. The mountains and lowlands have been stripped bare of timber (the locals use it to make charcoal to cook with) and soil erosion has left stark deserts where forests once stood.
The fact that this wasteland is a one-hour flight from Miami and just across a mountain range from the luxury resorts and golf courses of the Dominican Republic makes it all the more disorienting and poignant. But the tremendous hope I witnessed in Haiti was even more overwhelming than the poverty. Stay tuned for my post about that tomorrow.
meantime, I'd love to know: Have you ever traveled to an impoverished country for a vacation? How did it affect your experience?