Thursday, April 12, 2007

What a nice package you have – the art of popularizing rubbers

Condoms are not terribly popular anywhere. Of course, Swaziland is no exception.

Swaziland does have an exceptionally high HIV prevalence, however. Still, barrier protection is not winning any popularity contests, no matter how potentially life-altering condomless romance is.

I am no condom historian, but I am sure that the French were involved.

They still are.

French designer Dessine l'Espoir, in conjunction with Designing Hope, a Paris-based HIV/AIDS advocacy group with an African focus, is preparing a “condom diffusion campaign” featuring prophylactics packaged in original printed boxes carrying a selection of artwork and awareness messages.

At present, free condoms are distributed in several African countries, but they are available only in featureless packets in boring metal boxes in dull places (bathrooms, administrative buildings, hospitals, border posts, etc).Here is the idea: if a condom is in original, groovy, trendy, artsy packaging, any passer-by in any public place can pretend to be taking the hip artwork home, not the contraception.

I am no social marketer and I am certainly not overwhelmingly hip, but I totally dig the premise.

Ten designer condom boxes have already been created and printed, and Designing Hope is distributing thousands of these in Swaziland and South Africa.

The photos below were taken in the Baylor COE conference room, where Sasson, a Designing Hope volunteer, was giving a workshop on how to assemble the fancy packages.

The Designing Hope website has several other photos that outdo my amateur images. (The French, I suppose, are generally more aesthetic than us Texans, not that I would want to generalize, for we Texans are are generally against generalizing.)

Two articles outlining the challenges of condom promotion in Swaziland are: "Students ignore safer sex practices, survey finds" (Nov, 2006) and "Resisting Condom Use As Aids Deaths Soar" (Dec, 2003).

Quotes from the second article include:

"Swazis dislike condoms. They are unSwazi."

"Condoms are useless...They cut down on pleasure. They are like eating a sweet with the wrapper on."

Wrapping something nicely, it seems, does not appeal to everybody.


For those among you who count barrier protection among your passions, you may also check out my previous entry about the "incredible melting condom" from December of last year. The post is titled "Thinking outside the condom box - A news story"

Oh, if you are really passionate and have a strong stomach, you can have a look at the summary of last year's article titled 'Nonscientific' Count Of Condoms Found In Swaziland Sewage Plant.


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