In commemoration of World AIDS Day, CLUTCH has partnered with b condoms to educate our readers about the effects of HIV/AIDS in the African-American community. b condoms will provide our readers with a series of articles that will raise awareness and also showcase how the virus has changed families and relationships in our community. In this first article, we will showcase the founders of b condoms and discuss their work in the community. Subsequent articles will discuss HIV/AIDS rates, strategies, and prevention methods.
Clutch: Why did you start b condoms?
b: b condoms was started by a group of urban professionals that sought to make a change in our community by meeting an unmet need. We kept listening to programs that spoke about the effect that HIV/AIDS was having on our community and we felt that more was needed to address the issue.
One evening, we were discussing ways to get involved and felt that a large part of the reason that people were not using condoms is because the condom companies were not connecting with its users. We felt that we had a unique skillset and perspective that would allow us to develop a company to solve that problem. At that point, we decided to unite our respective experiences in social media, nightlife & entertainment, and business to develop a lifestyle brand that would spark change and broaden the discussion in our community.
Clutch: What is the mission and goal of b condoms?
b: Our mission is to reduce suffering and deaths due to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the most affected segments of the United States population. We really feel that this is such a great battle for the stability of our community and we’re trying to do our part. Our goal is to educate the community and save lives by broadening the discussion and tackling some of the key issues regarding HIV/AIDS in our community.
Clutch: What do you mean by “the most affected segments”?
b: We focus on the African-American Community, Latino Community, Gay and Bisexual Male Community, Urban Community, and the Fifty and Older Community.
Clutch: How are you different?
b: b condoms is not promoting our brand by selling sex. Our product line offers the same types of condoms that you can purchase with Trojan or Durex, but our goals are completely different. We are selling condoms as a lifestyle brand, with an emphasis on quality, education and community. Further, we seek to connect with our customers by incorporating the decision to use condoms into everything that is cool, chic, and hip. By approaching the problem in this manner, we seek to integrate the decision into the regular sexual process, like putting on shoes, sneakers or boots in the regular daily process.
Our condoms have been thoroughly tested and are manufactured according to FDA standards. Further, the quality of our condoms is second to none. We mean it when we say that all of our customers will experience the ultra-premium process that is incorporated into the development of all of our condoms. We provide a better quality product at a comparable cost.
Second, educating and connecting with the community is central to our goals. Our competitors simply try to connect with the community by paying a hip-hop artist to mention their product in their song or jingle, but that doesn’t change the conversation or address the core issue of why the rates of infection are so high amongst African-Americans. We are educating our customers and reinvesting a part of our profits into organizations that work to prevent STIs in our target communities. To us, the issue of HIV/AIDS is bigger than a jingle or an attempt to maximize profits, it’s about saving lives and changing the trajectory within our community.
Lastly, we are actively involved in the community and our focus is currently on the United States. Our focus does not seek to minimize the global effect of HIV/AIDS, but we feel that more needs to be done to educate people on the epidemic right here. It’s easy to minimize issues when they are not imminent. However, when a city like Washington, DC has approximately 3-5% of its population infected with the virus and those infected are predominantly African-American, something must be done. The issue is not isolated to Washington, DC. Cities like Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, and Philadelphia are also greatly affected, and, like Washington, DC, African-Americans are disproportionately affected.
Clutch: What does “b cool. b safe. b yourself.” mean?
b: “b cool. b safe. b yourself.” is our central theme. When we first selected “b” as the company name, we felt that the letter “b” gave the most flexibility in our messaging because there are so many issues that must be addressed. In thinking about how we wanted to connect with our target communities, we felt those three words described our mission most clearly. For example, it’s cool to use condoms. Thus, b cool. Second, our people should stay safe, even if they select not to use our condom brand. Lastly, we want our customers to stay true to themselves and their personal health.
Clutch: What types of organizations do you work with?
b: It really depends on the target audience we’re trying to connect with. We work with city and state governments to develop partnerships to increase distribution of our condoms specifically in urban areas. Currently, New York City and Washington, DC provide condoms for free through a partnership they have with Trojan. These are partnerships that we are working to build throughout the country. We are also working with distributors and buyers for corporations to make sure our condoms are carried in convenience stores, gas stations, bodegas and national supermarkets and retail chains.
We also do a lot of work with non-profits through our reinvestment program. This year we will be commemorating World AIDS Day by sponsoring a red carpet HIV/AIDS Awareness event at the Trump Soho in New York City and highlighting the work that VillageCare is doing to reduce HIV/AIDS rates in New York City.
I think the big issue is that we work with a lot of different partners. If there’s another organization that is interested in working with us, we are always open to entertaining ideas that fit our mission.
Clutch: Why do you believe HIV/AIDS is having such a disproportionate effect on the African-American community?
b: I think this is a great question and in one of the upcoming articles, we will seek to address this specific issue more in depth. For now, I will simply say that education, poverty rates among African-Americans, and the types of discussions that are socially acceptable versus not-socially acceptable play a big role in the problem.
Clutch: What is one piece of advice that you recommend for our readers?
b: I think the biggest message that I could recommend to the readers of CLUTCH is to stay protected. I know it sounds redundant, but whether you use b condoms or another brand, stay protected. Right now, African American women are 19 times more likely to be infected with HIV than white women. Further, AIDS is one of the top three causes of death for African-American men aged 25–54 and for African-American women aged 35–44 years in the United States of America. This is a huge problem in our community and I don’t think many people are educated on the magnitude of the issue. What’s even more troublesome is how African-Americans make up 47% of the total HIV-positive population and greater than half of all new HIV cases in the United States, despite comprising only 12% of the national population. Something has to be done to change that trajectory. That’s what our solution is created to solve.