Olympic curlers hope condom sales get attention

Brush aside all those stodgy notions about curling.

The curlers are selling condoms!

USA Curling and longtime sponsor Kodiak Technology Group 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 and AIDS. Proceeds will be split between USA Curling and Central Coast HIV/AIDS Services.

“Hurry hard” is a curling term, and the logo features a cartoon of a smiling curling stone on a house.

“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.”

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.” But curlers aren't exactly the prototypical poster children for a project like this.

They're not hip or edgy like the snowboarders. They don't have big names like the skiers. They don't have high-tech equipment. Their sport has been likened to a household chore, for heaven's sake.

Which is the whole point.

“It kind of shakes it up,” said Kathleen Banks, former executive director of the Monterey County (Calif.) AIDS Prevention, which is now Central Coast HIV/AIDS Services. “I'm all for anytime we can break the mold and help people become more aware.”

The idea for the project started when USA Curling's staff was brainstorming ideas for fundraisers, and someone joked that “hurry hard” would be a good name for a condom. The more it was discussed, though, the more serious the idea became.

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 percent of all new adult infections, and fewer than 40 percent of young people have basic information about HIV.

“It's affecting women and children and even older adults now,” Patzke said. “It just bolstered my opinion that this is not a bad thing. … We believe USA Curling can potentially help make a difference in people's lives in this area.”

The idea was mentioned to Kodiak chairman Dan Field, who had a connection to MCAP, and the program took off from there. USA Curling informed the U.S. Olympic Committee of the project before announcing it.

“HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention is a noble cause and the USOC, much like the IOC, certainly supports sport playing a role in tackling these and other terrible afflictions,” USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said.

Patzke knows there will be those who won't approve of the project, possibly even some within USA Curling. But the federation isn't promoting or advocating sex, Patzke said.

It's 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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