Thursday, March 12, 2009

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Clinton middle school students get condoms as part of health fair giveaway


Clinton middle school parents were in for awkward conversations Thursday night after some students got condoms as part of a school health fair giveaway.

"I kind of freaked out," said a Clinton seventh-grade girl who was so shocked and embarrassed when she pulled a condom out of a goodie bag that she dropped it.

"I turned to my friend and said 'What do I do with this?' and I gave it to someone. I wasn't going to keep it."

The Ryan Medical Center, a health care provider located in the school, handed out the bags as part of an HIV/AIDS awareness program.

Most contained only health literature, lapel pins, keychains or lollipops, but a number included condoms.

Red-faced administrators rushed to e-mail a message to parents saying the racy handout was done without its knowledge and apologized "if this unfortunate incident has caused anxiety for you or your child."

The condom-giveout was in violation of Department of Education policy and the principal will review any future material that the Ryan Center wants to distribute to students, said DOE spokeswoman Marge Feinberg.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What Sells in a Recession: Canned Goods and Condoms


What's the last thing people want in a recession? More kids, apparently. According to data-tracking firm the Nielsen Co., dollar sales of products in the "family planning" category, which include condoms and over-the-counter female contraceptives, were up 10.2% for the first two months of this year. Unit sales were up 1.5%, which indicates that consumers are willing to pay higher prices today to prevent crib expenses tomorrow.

But economics alone can't explain this protectionism. To cut expenses, consumers are going out less, a phenomenon retail analysts call cocooning. Among couples, cocooning can lead to canoodling, which can lead to ... recreation. "People are spending a lot less on entertainment," says Rick Shea, a branding expert and founder of Shea Marketing Consulting. "And 'that,' for the most part, is free." (See pictures of Americans in their homes.)

Nothing says more about the American mind-set than what consumers are buying, and ignoring, at drugstores, supermarkets and mass-merchandising outlets like Wal-Mart and Target. TIME asked the Nielsen Co. to identify the best- and worst-performing product categories during this recession, and the findings are quite revealing. In general, people are buying more food to prepare at home, a function of their eating out less often at restaurants, which are suffering. At the same time, they're forsaking home furnishings and more discretionary items. "The American consumer is clearly getting back to basics," says Todd Hale, Nielsen's senior vice president of consumer and shopping insights. "The philosophy out there seems to be 'If you can't eat it, you don't need it.' " (See the top 10 food trends of 2008.)

So what's outperforming on the shelves? A catch-all category called "seasonal general merchandise," which contains thawing salt, body warmers and gift packages with candy, was tops, with a 32% rise. Analysts explain this jump by pointing to the unusually cold and snowy winter, plus the folks who traded down their Valentine's Day purchases from fancy dinners and jewelry to smaller-ticket gift packages. Unit sales for canning and freezing supplies like jars, bags and containers were up 11.5% during the eight weeks ending on Feb. 21, making them the second best-performing category on Nielsen's list. This suggests that consumers are trying to increase the shelf life of their food purchases so they don't have to head back to the store. "There's a segment of the population returning to the habits that my parents and grandparents had," says Tom DeMott, 56, chief operating officer of Encore Associates, a consumer-goods advisory firm. "They're canning and freezing products just so they can save a few bucks." (See which businesses are doing well despite the recession.)

Other categories in the top 20, as measured by a change in unit sales during the first two months of 2009, include baking mixes and supplies, flour and dough products; people are making brownies instead of buying them. Fresh-meat sales rose 7.3%, vegetables and dry grains were up 5.5%, dry pasta 4.4% and cheese 3.1%. Wine and liquor were also up. People aren't heading out for alcohol, but they still want to drink at home. In these bleak days, self-medication is certainly in style.

The worst-performing categories include discretionary items. Cookie and ice cream cone sales dropped 9.7%; people can do without dessert, and further, the boom in baking supplies shows that more people are making treats at home. Bottled water was down 11%, but that makes sense. "What's the economical substitute for that?" asks DeMott. "It's called a tap."

The jams, jellies and spreads category was also down, by a sharp 12.1%. That includes peanut butter; while you might expect people to eat more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead of steak during a typical recession, the salmonella outbreak likely dragged down the numbers. Canned seafood, down 13.3%, is a little harder to explain. In general, seafood costs more than other products, but if consumers are trading down to canned goods, one might think they'd be buying more of it in cans. (Read "Why We Buy the Products We Buy.")

The categories rounding out the bottom 20 are for the most part expendable. Film and cameras, whose unit sales dropped 31.5%, was the worst of the bunch. "A camera is not something you need right now," says DeMott. Plus, who really wants to remember these tough times? And if couples are using contraception, they won't need a camera to snap precious baby pictures.

Sports and novelty cards were down 26.5%. "You really don't need that," says DeMott. Magazines slipped 17.1% (sigh ? don't we know it). Products that spruce up your home ? kitchen gadgets, lawn and garden items, buckets, bins and bath accessories ? were slumping. Sales of air fresheners and deodorizers also dropped. "If you're lucky enough to have a couple of extra dollars, do you really need your bathroom to smell minty fresh?" asks Shea. Both insect repellants and cough and cold remedies were struggling. We'll suffer mosquito bites and sniffles for a few extra bucks. (Read "America's Shrinking Groceries.")

What's more, experts say bug spray and other lagging products shouldn't expect a rebound anytime soon. The back-to-basics movement is here to stay. "There's an interesting psychological effect happening right now," says DeMott. "It's permeating every consumer segment. People think they have to hunker down, no matter what their socioeconomic status." So start stocking your shelves. We're now a country of cocooners.

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FDA approves new female condom


FDA approves new female condom

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new version of the female condom, allowing it to be sold in the U.S. and distributed more widely across the world.

The agency?s decision was expected after an FDA advisory panel endorsed the product late last year. The condom is manufactured by the Female Health Company, based in Chicago.

The new version, made of synthetic rubber instead of polyurethane, is cheaper than the original female condom -- a long lubricated sheath anchored at either end by a flexible ring. When inserted, the closed end of the sheath is positioned high in the vaginal canal.

Though the material is different in the updated version, the design is not. Both products are equally effective.

Costs will run about 30 percent below current prices, making the product more affordable for individuals as well as public health organizations, according to Mary Ann Leeper, strategic adviser to the Female Health Co.

Because it was expensive, the original female condom never really caught on, although it?s the only way for sexually active women to take steps on their own initiative to avoid sexually transmitted infections. In the U.S., prices ranged from $1.15 to $2.75 apiece, depending on the means of distribution.

Meanwhile, marketing for the female condom was inadequate, by most accounts. Without a strong reason to try it, women stuck with better-known contraceptive options.

Now, the challenge will be persuading public health departments to distribute the updated female condom more widely and to educate more women about its advantages, said Catherine Christeller, executive director of the Chicago Women?s AIDS Project.

The primary advantage is control. Instead of depending on a man to use a condom for safe sex, a woman can choose to use one herself.

Linda Arnade, a 23-year-old woman who described using the female condom to me in December, recently gave a presentation to staff from the Chicago Department of Health on the product?s characteristics. Arnade is an advocacy coordinator with the Chicago Women?s AIDS Project.

Another challenge is to convince women the product can be sexy as well as safe, Christeller said. Groups like the Pleasure Project in the United Kingdom are promoting the message that safe sex using the female condom doesn?t have to be boring, she noted.

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Genital Shield Promises Rid World of STDs "Bull Sh*%"


The only thing that is going to work is Education and More people using their heads

This guy Dug from Florida just filed patent papers for a product he believes will "change the world." It's called the Genital Shield, and ? though the name is a bit of a boner-shrinker ? he believes it will eventually rid the planet of STDs. His target consumer: responsible gentlemen with herpes.

The two-piece condom works like this: A latex mold covers the scrotum and pubic hair, leaving a hole for the shaft. A special jimmy then attaches to the "shield" in the manor of a Ziploc bag. The goal is to prevent diseases transmitted by skin-on-skin rubbing.

Naysayers such as Riptide might inquire, "Isn't that kind of like a Speedo?" But don't. Questions like those make the emphatic, hot-tempered 53-year-old Clearwater man testy. "Are you kidding me?" he snaps in a thick Bronx accent. "No, no. The guy is going to gain stamina, feelings of adequacy, and confidence. And the girl is going to get pleasure beyond her wildest dreams."

Brian Osterberg, president of IXu condoms, hates to burst Sturlingh's bubble. "God bless him. He's talking about it like it's the best thing since sliced bread ? but it's far from that," Osterberg says. "A patent application does not a marketable product make."

But Sturlingh is still banking on it. He has already spent $20,000 developing the idea. He points out old-school Trojans can't prevent the spread of the STD that causes genital warts or cancer ? the human papillomavirus ? which at least 50 percent of sexually active Americans carry. "Condoms are obsolete," he boasts. "They are the horse and cart, and I'm the automobile."

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