As various governments and health institutions battle with the issues of HIV/AIDS and unplanned pregnancies, several strategies have been introduced over the years to promote and encourage safe sex practices. One of those initiatives has been to make contraceptive products such as condoms more appealing, especially young people.
The Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT) in conjunction with Population Services International/ Caribbean has launched a line of condoms called Cool Condoms just in time for the Carnival season, when there is heightened sexual activity.
FPATT President, Dr Jacqueline Sharpe said in the Caribbean including Trinidad and Tobago, low condom use has been identified as one of the major factors impeding the control and prevention of HIV/AIDS and pregnancy. In proposing a regional model condom policy, she said the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP) noted that despite relatively wide condom distribution mechanisms, the accessibility and acceptance of condoms remains limited in most Caribbean countries.
She quoted: "Those populations particularly who are most at risk of infection or unintended pregnancy. Access to condoms is difficult for sex workers and for men who have sex with men due to social stigma and discrimination.
Collective disapproval, adverse legislation and service norms are among the main causes hampering condom access for sexually active adolescents. Gender relationships, sexual culture and sex education in the Caribbean do not sufficiently support preventive behaviour based on a realistic personal risk assessment."
Dr Sharpe said it is within this context that the Family Planning Association has decided to launch its own brand of condoms with the support of Population Services International.
She said: "We are doing this as part of a wider Caribbean effort, Belize Family Life Association and the St Lucia Planned Parenthood Association have already launched Cool Condoms. It is hoped that a launch will take place in St Vincent and the Grenadines as well."
Dr Sharpe said reproductive health commodity security is one of the reasons they are involved in the project.
"In order to have reproductive health commodity security it really only exists when every person is able to choose, obtain and use contraceptives and other essential sexual health products whenever they need them.
That means therefore that you have to ensure that there is an adequate supply of the products and that they are available for all sectors of the community and market."
She said FPATT had issues not specifically with condoms, but issues with other commodities particularly contraceptive pills and other contraceptives where the available resource is limited.
"What is happening in the contraceptive pill market is that several manufacturers have stopped manufacturing because it is no longer particularly profitable and people have not been stepping up to take that position."
Dr Sharpe said in the Caribbean, the group is particularly concerned that access to condoms continues with access to other contraceptive commodities for the simple reason that we have high incidences of HIV.
Cool condoms are said to have been made from high quality products using German technology. It is being made accessible to the local population at $7 for a pack of three. The condoms come in different colours and the flavours of strawberry and banana.