by Amy Borer
As Valentine’s Day grows near, many students find their minds filled with traditional romantic thoughts.
Candlelight dinners…walks along a moonlit beach…red roses…heart shaped boxes of chocolates…and…wait…condoms?
For the past week, students on campus had the opportunity to send their Valentines condom grams in preparation for Love Carefully Week, ULV’s version of National Condom Week, sponsored by the Prevention Center.
“It’s a creative opportunity to get information out there without saying ‘AIDS can kill and you need to be safe and unprotected sex can be scary,’” said Tracy Germann, coordinator of substance abuse prevention programs.
The main purpose of Love Carefully week is to educate students on the effectiveness of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
“People have asked me if I’m advocating sex and I’m not really advocating sex, I’m advocating safer sex,” said Germann.
While people are aware of the dangers of STDs, especially human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), many of the dangers go unheeded.
According to the World Health Organization, 5,000 new AIDS cases occur in the world each day. In the United States, the number of reported AIDS cases due to heterosexual transmission increased 12 fold between 1985 and 1990.
John Hopkins University reports that if men and women who live in urban areas continue with the same low rate of condom use, one in every six persons will be HIV infected by the year 2015.
Germann and the rest of the Prevention Center hope that the condom grams will get students to take notice and think about practicing safer sex.
While Germann considered starting Love Carefully Week last year, this is the first year ULV has taken part in National Condom Week. In order to plan for this week, she spent time talking to students and faculty members about the possibility of distributing condoms.
“I tried to do some marketing. I got some test products and showed people the pictures (of the condom grams),” she said.
Two types of condom grams are on sale. A refillable condom key chain with a variety of different sayings and illustrations, which sells for $2, comes with a heart-shaped sucker, Hershey’s Kisses and an information booklet. There is also a “love pop,” which sells for $1, that looks just like a candy sucker and also comes with candy and an information booklet.
“I don’t know how many people will use these, but it’s definitely a conversation starter,” said Germann. “It’s definitely a little more creative than keeping it in your wallet.”
So far, the response from students has been mixed.
“I don’t think people are taking them as serious as they could be, but that’s O.K., said Shannon McCrea, student health coordinator. “People are taking it as a joke, but it’s a serious thing. I hope people will realize it and use it.”
“Some people have said ‘I don’t know if the University of La Verne is ready for it,’ and well, I don’t know either, but we’ll find out,” Germann added. “I hope people aren’t offended because that’s not my goal. If it causes people to think, that’s my goal.
“I’m not doing this to make people mad. I’m doing this because it needs to be done. It’s a creative way to reach students and it’s also a good way to make them think.
“I don’t think necessarily this activity will have all the students wearing condoms when they have sex, but it’s another thing in their face that says ‘This is a good idea.’ Hopefully, if they keep seeing it they’ll get used to it and they will realize that, yeah, for my own safety and the safety of my partners, it’s a good idea,” she said.
The sale of the condom grams will continue today and Monday in front of the Student Center. The Prevention Center and the Student Health Center will also kick off Love Carefully week by co-sponsoring a seminar on Monday, Feb. 13, in the Student Center classroom at noon. The speaker will be Tamela Ritola, regional director of Reality Condom Company and educator on sexual barrier protection against STDs.
The Reality Condom Company is the only manufacturer of the new female condom. The “latest safeer sex” equipment, STD transmission information as well as building communication with partners about safe sex will be among the subjects discussed. Condom grams will be available at the seminar along with complimentary condoms.