Companies push condom use, STI messages on college campuses to promote safer-sex

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The New York Times on Sunday examined the campaigns conducted by the condom industry on college campuses nationwide that aim to promote condom use and safer-sex messages in an effort to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

According to the Times, condom distribution nationwide has become an integral part of college freshman orientations because condom manufacturers are "eager to mine a ready market" of consumers, and some college administrators are "happy to receive free or discounted products that will keep students healthy."

The messages included in the campaigns can differ -- some companies "deliver grave messages" about STIs and others provide "humorous riffs on masculinity," according to the Times.

However, most companies share a common objective: to "introduce the companies' products to freshmen, create new health habits and ... drive future sales," the Times reports.

Physicians, family planning groups and health organizations are "unambiguous in endorsing condoms as the most effective means" of reducing the risk of contracting HIV and other STIs, as well as a method of reducing the risk of unintended pregnancy, according to the Times.

Although some colleges choose not to distribute condoms on campus for religious and other reasons, college administrators who support condom distribution "agree that this is a significant time of year for getting students started on new habits," the Times reports.

According to the market research publisher Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com, condom sales in the U.S. reached $398.3 million in 2005 -- a 2.8% increase from 2004.

It is not clear how much of the increase was driven by college students, but condom manufacturers are "dreaming up ever-more creative ways to get their attention" -- including an increase in print, television, online and radio advertisements, the Times reports.

Condom manufacturer Trojan next month in Chicago and Los Angeles plans to sponsor round-table discussions with college journalists about sexual health. In addition, the company on Tuesday displayed on its Web site results of its Sexual Health Report Card, which graded 100 public and private colleges and universities on their efforts to promote sexual health among their students.

"A third of condoms are purchased by college-age students," Jim Daniels, vice president for marketing at Trojan, said, adding, "Therefore it's a very important target. Very often people become sexually active during those years" (Rosenbloom, New York Times, 9/24).


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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