Promote National Condom Week: Ideas you can use

Events include a contest, dinner dance

What is your clinic’s message this year for National Condom Week, Feb. 14 -21? A roundup of ideas from three Planned Parenthood affiliates may provide inspiration for encouraging your patients to use condoms consistently.

The year 2000 marks the 22nd observance of the event, according to David Silberman, MPH, project director at Pharmacists Planning Service Inc. (PPSI) of San Rafael, CA. PPSI, a nonprofit organization that promotes public health education and awareness campaigns, sponsors National Condom Week with the Condom Resource Center of Oak land, CA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing outreach education, technical assistance, and print and audiovisual materials on condom use. About 650 school and college campuses will host special activities in conjunction with the week, he estimates.

Winners of the National Condom Couplet Contest will be announced by PPSI during the week. The contest encourages submission of a rhymed couplet (two lines of verse with the same number of syllables, and rhyming last syllables). Light-hearted verses such as "When you rise . . . condomize" are then used to further promote the condom message.

Also on tap is a two-day scientific symposium cosponsored by the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health and the New York University School of Education’s department of health studies. Such events help underscore the need for increased education and awareness of condom use, says Silberman.

Planned Parenthood of Lincoln (NE) partners with the Nebraska AIDS Project’s Lincoln affiliate in sponsoring a "Love Carefully" dinner dance at a local Unitarian church. The two organizations split the responsibilities of hiring a disc jockey, coordinating food items through the church’s social action committee, promoting the event through a flier inserted in Planned Parenthood’s newsletter, and assembling items for a silent auction, according to Linda Hellerich, director of development.

Tickets for the event are under $20 and food costs are kept low. Planned Parenthood buys the food, which is prepared by church committee members. Items sold at the auction, which range from Valentine’s Day-themed items such as flowers and candy to movie passes, are donated. The 1998 event raised almost $3,000 before expenses, with $800 garnered from the auction, she reports.

A table is set up to display small cloth bags filled with condoms and safer-sex printed material, but the prevention message is low-key, says Hellerich. The event, which has been held for about five years, attracts many families, who use the church’s nursery for child care during the dance. It also has attracted some untoward attention as well. Picketers who oppose dissemination of sex education materials marched outside during the 1999 event. Organizers are undeterred in planning this year’s dance, says Hellerich.

Want to provoke a thoughtful discussion about condoms? Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania hosted a reading from the book, Getting It On: A Condom Reader (Soho Press, New York City). The book, a literary collection of short stories, poems, and novel excerpts, made its publishing debut during the 1999 observation of National Condom Week.

Cynthia Baughman, a professor of screenwriting at Temple University in Philadelphia, read her short story, "Safety Speech," from the book, which was followed by an audience discussion on safer sex. Packets of condoms and information were distributed following the event.

Planned Parenthood used fliers to get out the word, says Tamela Luce, public affairs coordinator. Fliers were mailed to newsletter recipients, placed in clinics, and posted in such community areas as coffeehouses. Information also was posted on the affiliate’s Web site, as well as printed in newspaper calendar listings.

While turnout was relatively light, organizers were pleased with the event, says Luce. The affiliate is considering teaming with a local college or university to boost activity during the 2000 observance of National Condom Week.

Use a safer sex gazette

Get the word out on the importance of condoms with a "Safer Sex Gazette," such as the one published by the Planned Parenthood of South Carolina in Columbia. The gazette, an 8.5 x 11 inch handout printed on both sides, uses a news letter format and a catchy style to convey its message, says Jane Emerson, affiliate chief executive officer. The handout covers the history of National Condom Week and offers information about how to use condoms and how to talk to partners about them.

The gazette, developed in-house and printed inexpensively, was distributed not only during National Condom Week, but at health fairs and other community events throughout the year, says Emerson. During National Condom Week, the affiliate used graduate students from local universities to set up tables in local bars to pass out the gazettes and offer free condoms.

"We have used it for the past three or four years," says Emerson. "We distribute them at health fairs, especially with young people."

Pharmacists Planning Service Inc., 101 Lucas Valley Road, Suite 210, San Rafael, CA 94903. Telephone: (415) 479-8628. Fax: (415) 479-8608. E-mail: ppsi@aol.com.