CNN reports that condom company Sir Richard's has adopted the charitable strategy of TOMS Shoes: buy one, and one will be donated to a developing country. They're starting with Haiti, where HIV has spiked in the years since a devastating earthquake overwhelmed its healthcare system.
It's a clever idea, and there's no doubt that condoms are crucial to the fight against HIV/AIDS. However, the company does seem to be hyping this more than is warranted. The CEO is quoted as saying that "If everyone bought our condoms, we could really change the world. That's an extraordinary proposition, but it's very
real." Of course, a cynic might note that the same result could be obtained if people simply donated condoms on their own, bypassing Sir Richard's coffers.
What's more, although the main focus of the article is HIV/AIDS, the company is also touting this as the great solution to unplanned pregnancy around the world. Unfortunately, as we can see in the United States, the widespread availability of cheap condoms at every pharmacy and free condoms at every college dorm does not always lead to low rates of unintended pregnancy.
In large part, that's because condoms are much better at stopping the AIDS virus than they are at stopping the little swimmers. According to the CDC, while condoms are highly effective at preventing HIV transmission, the typical use failure rate for condoms as a contraceptive is a dismal eighteen percent. People often fail to make that distinction, and therefore do not appreciate the chances of pregnancy as fully as they should. No doubt that misunderstanding will be magnified in a region that has little in the way of healthcare access and sex education.
What do you think? Is this a good idea, a problematic idea, or something in between?