Creative Condom Give-Aways Foil Pregnancy, Disease & Shame

They’re certainly festive and blowing up fruit-flavored, multi-colored condoms probably tastes a lot better than the standard powder-coated latex balloons sold as party favors at the convenience store.

From condom lollipops, earrings, and keychain holders, these are just some of many creative ways Colorado family planning, reproductive rights, and HIV/AIDS organizations are getting prophylactics into the hands of the public. “Some young people like to play with the condoms and use them as balloons,” said Jacinta Montoya, executive director of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR). “I’m okay with that because it helps them to become more familiar with handling condoms in the future,” she said.

And play they should.

A report released last month by the Colorado Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Parenting and Prevention reveals that in 2005 Latina girls, ages 15-17, birthed 62 percent of all babies born to teen mothers in the state.

The Youth Risk Behavior Report produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2005 found an alarming lack of information for students of color on HIV/AIDS despite the fact that the same kids report having sex at earlier ages than other ethnic or racial groups. In Colorado, 75 percent of Latino students receive HIV/AIDS prevention information in school compared to 87 percent of their Caucasian peers.

Risk reduction through condom distribution and education is an important component of the Colorado AIDS Project. “At community events, there are invariably parents who sneak back to our booth to stock up on supplies for their sexually active teenagers, or for themselves.”

While we’re probably not quite ready for the graphic sexually transmitted disease prevention program featuring life-sized costumed characters like “the healthy penis” and his nemesis “Phil the red-faced syphilis sore”, San Francisco’s syphilis rate plummeted 23 percent among gay men after the public health campaign was introduced. The program encouraging condom use and testing has been tamed down quite a bit but has had successful runs in Los Angeles, Seattle, Philadelphia and the state of Alabama.

Condom key chains are a big hit though, said Michael Lee, marketing and communications director for Colorado AIDS Project. “They’re visually appealing, a great conversation starter and you’ll always have a condom at the ready,” said Lee.

Availability seems to be the key. Colorado College’s VOX group keep a supply of condoms in each dorm on campus, said Katie Groke Ellis of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. Likewise, in some Planned Parenthood health centers, condoms are provided at no cost to patients.

COLOR also inadvertently discovered a popular safe sex product to help get its message out.

According to Montoya, the organization has distributed safe sex kits with male and female condoms, flavored lubricant, dental dams, and educational materials to teens and adults at Latino community events and information fairs for nearly 10 years.

“People act like little kids when the see all the different flavors. Everyone has to make sure they find their favorite,” she said.