5 Innovative Ways to Encourage Safer Sex
Most people know that condoms help prevent the spread of HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STI). But in many parts of the world, condoms aren't very popular. Here are five novel campaigns launched by nonprofit organizations and condom companies to encourage wider use.
1. A ring tone to remember
In India, people stigmatize condoms and refuse to wear them because they believe only prostitutes must use prophylactics. Leave it one of the world's richest men to find a solution—the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated money for a national condom ring tone. An a cappella group sings "Condom, Condom"—in the style of doo-wop like the contagious pop song "Barbara Ann"—when one receives a phone call. Despite its bubblegum sound, officials hope that the people who have the condom ring tone appear smart and responsible. Since the ring tone's August launch, more than 60,000 people downloaded it. Yvonne MacPherson, country director of the BBC World Service Trust (which the Gates foundation funded), sums it up best when she said to the Associated Press: "A ring tone is a very public thing. It's a way to show you are a condom user and you don't have any issues with it." Right, nothing attracts the amorous attention like announcing loudly that you have a condom.
2. Perks you right up
Ethiopians claim they hate condoms because the smell of latex sickens them. To combat the odor, DKT International, a United Sates nonprofit, created coffee condoms. These dark brown condoms allegedly (I'm not testing the products) taste and smell like the favorite coffee of Ethiopia—the macchiato, an espresso with cream and sugar. One college student claimed the smell reminded him of the beauty of Ethiopian women (it's not clear if that's a compliment). These condoms bolster national identity because Ethiopians claim to have invented coffee. DKT International also created flavored and scented condoms for Indonesia (durian fruit) and China (sweet corn).
3. Condom trees
In western Australia, the rate of HIV infection and STI is the highest in the nation. When public health nurses were looking for an effective way to distribute condoms, someone suggested trees. Young people in the countryside hang out under trees, making it the perfect place for nurses to hang condom-filled canisters. Over 3,000 condoms are taken each month. Residents said grabbing condoms from trees was convenient and private. Additionally, officials in Australia piloted programs where Aboriginal teens sold packets of condoms and kept half of the proceeds. Official tout these programs as a success because STI rates have lowered, yet nurses wonder how they will convince people that they shouldn't have multiple partners. Maybe a monogamy tree is in the outback's future.
4. Scare tactics
Perhaps some safe sex programs skirt the issue—unprotected sex causes HIV, which leads to AIDS and often death. It's not surprising that a condom company would resort to scare tactics. The Tulipan Company launched its "Be Careful" ads in Argentina. Showing skeletons positioned in flagrante delicto, these ads make no bones about how important it is to wear a condom while engaging in coitus (see the campaign here). No word if the skeleton ads have had the desired impact, though the graphic skeletons appear more popular than recent Trojan ads, which depict men as swine.
5. Spray-on protection
Since his teens, Jan Vinzenz Krause struggled to find a condom that fit correctly. He thought the pursuit of the perfect prophylactic was hopeless—until he went to the carwash. Inspired by the spray-on soap and wax, the German Krause developed a spray-on latex condom, which he claims always fits perfectly and feels natural. However, many men find the design off-putting; the spray-on condom comes in a hard phallic case. Men slide themselves into the cylinder and layer on the latex, providing full coverage. The Jolly Joe, as Krause dubbed it, frightened many men during the testing phase—they only put the case on their fingers. (Spray on gloves anyone?) Others felt the loud hissing wasn't sexy and the latex takes too long to dry—three minutes. Krause explains to Time, "It needs to be ready in five to ten seconds." So for now, Krause is waiting for a quicker-drying latex.