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Curlers hope condom sales get attention
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Curlers hope condom sales get attention

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

The United States Curling Association (USA Curling) and longtime sponsor Kodiak Technology Group (KTG) have teamed up to sell Hurry Hard Condoms, hoping the increased interest in Olympic sports before the Vancouver Games will help raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. Proceeds will be split between USA Curling and Central Coast HIV/AIDS Services.

Through sales and promotions of Hurry Hard Condoms, USA Curling and KTG - along with the Monterey County AIDS Prevention (MCAP) program - want to use the inspirational elements of sport and the Olympics to contribute to the ongoing needs of education and prevention, particularly for today's youth.

"Hurry hard" is a curling term, and the packages feature a cartoon logo of a smiling curling stone on a house. Additionally, the packages feature the tagline "Be smart. Stay safe." KTG will produce and sell the condoms online (www.hurryhardcondoms.com), with distribution handled by MCAP.

The International Olympic Committee has an "HIV and AIDS Prevention Through Sport" program, and considers it a "moral obligation" to "place sport at the service of mankind."

Curling is a team game with similarities to shuffleboard, played by two teams of four players each on a rectangular sheet of carefully prepared ice. Teams take turns sliding heavy, polished granite stones down the ice towards the target, known as the house. Two sweepers with brooms accompany each rock and use timing equipment and their best judgment, along with direction from their teammates, to help direct the stones to their resting place.

While it may be true that curlers aren't as edgy as snowboarders and skiers, curling is a rapidly growing sport in the United States and around the world. The sport has gained a significant following during the past two Winter Olympic Games, leading television ratings for all Winter Olympic sports. In February 2006, the US Curling Association website received 100 million verifiable hits, with a record 12.5 million on February 16. Curling was the third most-searched topic on MSN.com during the Games.

"The platform that USA Curling can leverage is the Olympic exposure and excitement around the Olympics," said Rick Patzke, USA Curling's chief operating officer. "I'm sure it'll bring more fodder for talk shows and things like that. But it will bring attention to the central message, which is safety and education and awareness for safer sex and HIV prevention."

According to UNAIDS, of the 33.4 million people living with HIV, 2.1 million are children under 15. Young people account for about 40% of all new adult infections, and fewer than 40% of young people have basic information about HIV. Worldwide, approximately one in every 100 adults aged 15 to 49 is HIV-infected. Two young Americans are infected by HIV/AIDS every hour, with 40,000 to 60,000 infected annually.

"AIDS is threatening to destroy our collective sporting future and everyone must play a part in the fight," the International Olympic Committee stated in its fact sheet. "This is why all of us - a father or mother, a son or daughter, a brother or sister, a teacher or coach, an administrator or a community leader, an athlete or spectator - are being called on to play a part in the response to HIV/AIDS and in the fight against discrimination."

Patzke says USA Curling's Hurry Hard Condom project is not promoting or advocating sex. Instead, it is trying to raise awareness and promote education for a disease that has already killed 25 million people.

"The easy thing to do would be to say, 'Oh, this is too risky,' to say we're not going to get involved in it," Patzke said. "But there were enough people who thought it's a good thing to do, and that we're in a position to help people. Using sports to leverage things like this is sometimes the easiest way to get more exposure."

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