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Kerry Singh, regional marketing manager, PSI, left, Salorne Mc Donald, centre, regional behaviour, change communications manager, and Adrian Raymond, marketing communications manager, pose with some of the posters addressing HIV/Aids-awareness issues in front of the head office of the Population Services International (PSI) Caribbean division, Henry Pierre Street, Woodbrook, on April 21. Photo: Wendy Ann Duncan

AVALENE HARRIS

Half of the free condoms that are given out in public are thrown away.

“Once they are given out free, they would think it is inferior,”said Kerry Singh, regional marketing manager of Population Services International (PSI). “But if they pay their hard-earned money for it, they would have no other choice but to make the best use of it,” Singh continued.Speaking in an interview on April 19, Singh said PSI’s strategy was mainly aimed at a new approach to the marketing and distribution of condoms in the Caribbean.

But how do you get people—especially women—to buy condoms?

Heidi Mitchell* vows that she would never again purchase condoms—she finds it humiliating.

“If I don’t have any in stock, he better have, cause I am not going out to get any,” the Curepe resident said in an interview on April 21.

“He just wouldn’t get none (sex),” she reasoned.

Mitchell said she found that going out to purchase condoms was a woman’s worst nightmare.

“People look at you like you’re committing a crime or something. I have had too many bitter experiences already,” the 28-year-old recalled.

Women like Mitchell could now breathe a sign of relief, as the Society for Family Health, in collaboration with (PSI) have come up with a campaign to deal with the stigmatisation they face when coming to the purchasing of condoms.

PSI, which has been in existence for the past 50 years, is an international non-profit marketing organisation with operations in over 70 countries around the world.

The organisation, which works closely with the National Aids Programme and other non- governmental organisations, aims to promote the broad access to the purchase and use of condoms by increasing their availability and accessibility.PSI has begun to air mass media advertisements with strong messages behind them. It’s goal is for more and more young people to think twice about unprotected sex and use the condoms for their own safety.

This explains the campaign’s eye-catching slogan, “Got it? Get it.”

The slogan is outlined by an outer circle depicting a condom.

“We used the colours yellow and black, which are symbolic of caution,” Singh said.

PSI’s message is similar to other HIV/Aids awareness campaigns, such as the National Aids Co-ordinating Committee, Ministry of Health’s National Aids Programme Rapport youth drop-in centre and YMCA’s What’s Your Position? and catchyalphabetical slogan: Abstain, Be Faithful and Condomise.

On April 11 PSI launched its regional multi-media HIV/Aids-prevention campaign, targeted at youths aged 16-24 years old, at the Bois Cano Terrace at Kapok Hotel, Maraval.

Singh said the campaign’s approach was to achieve behaviour change among its target populations through mass media (print and electronic), event promotion and distributor partnerships, among other tactics.

He added that the campaign had produced three advertisements, which were made in Jamaica. They are now being aired on local TV. One shows a woman skulking while buying condoms in a store; another shows a man getting a condom from a friend.

Singh said the campaign was specifically geared at lowering the barriers to consistent condom use.He added that an equally important component of the project was identifying non-traditional (non-pharmacy) distribution points, such as barbershops, hairdressing salons, bars and clubs, to carry condoms in order to support the campaign’s stance.

“We are aware that there are a lot of people who are still having problems with purchasing condoms at pharmacies.

“And that’s why we want to make condoms readily available to people at their convenience,” he said.

Singh, who explained that the organisation would not be directly distributing condoms to the public, said that they would be working closely with other non-governmental organisations in order to achieve this goal.

“We have joined forces with the NGOs in the other countries and with the Kondom Krew here in Trinidad to assist in the distributing of condoms when they go on their condom drives,” he said.

Singh said the campaign was now seeking endorsement from Caribbean reggae, hip hop and soca stars to assist in promoting the logo through radio and television ads.

The campaign uses trendy and upbeat promotional items to crave the attention of the youths.

Among these are reader-friendly posters, youthfully-styled printed T-shirts, dog tags and wrist bands.

“Our purpose is to have the youths align themselves to the cause and not just wear the promotional items as a fashion statement.

“They must wear it and mean it,” he added.

The ultimate goal is to get everyone to be like Tricia Burnette, of Barataria, who takes pleasure in making condom purchases. It makes her feel liberated.

“It’s a great feeling when you can walk into a drugstore as a woman and call for a pack of condoms.

“You get to chose your own brand, colour and even flavour,” the mother of two explained during an interview at her office in Port-of-Spain.

“Never once have I ever felt ashamed,” Burnette said.

She added that she had no intention of getting pregnant again, nor contracting an virus, and, as such, was bent on protecting herself.

“I no longer wait on a man to walk with his rubbers, I am always well stocked up,” she said, with a chuckle.

* Names changed to protect subject’s identity.

©2005-2006 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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