"I have lost loved ones to HIV - that's what inspired me to do this"
By Nellie Peyton
DAKAR, Dec 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Congolese fashion designer is promoting safe sex with a collection of clothes made of condoms that she hopes will help combat HIV/AIDS in the central African country.
Felicite Luwungu started making her condom line, which includes strapless evening gowns and tops, after the HIV/AIDS epidemic hit close to home.
"I have lost loved ones to HIV - that's what inspired me to do this," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from the capital, Kinshasa. "The message that I hope people will apply is to be prudent."
The number of people living with HIV/AIDS and dying from related infections in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been falling for more than a decade, according to the United Nations.
The prevalence rate of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is about 0.7 percent, among the lowest in southern and central Africa, UNAIDS data shows.
Luwungu, 40, displays her work in runway shows and exhibitions. When she finishes the condom collection, she plans to present it at a large fashion show next year.
The designs have shocked audiences but responses have been mostly positive, Luwungu said.
"People make jokes but it doesn't discourage me," she said.
"That only pushes me to do this more."
(Reporting by Nellie Peyton. Editing by Katy Migiro.; Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)
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