A local AIDS organization is raising concerns about WorldPride Toronto’s exclusive condom sponsorship agreement because it limits condom distribution along the parade route to just one brand.
Mark Hammann, the manager of education services at the AIDS Committee of Durham Region, had requested a number of the sanctioned condoms for his group to hand out in the Pride parade on June 29 but says he has yet to hear back from Trojan.
The condom brand, owned by household product manufacturer Church & Dwight, has been a sponsor of Pride Toronto for 12 years. Under the sponsorship agreement, Trojan is the only brand of condom that can be distributed at this year’s Pride parade and at the street fair.
Parade participants are instructed to contact a representative of Pride Toronto if they want to hand out condoms. But Hammann says Trojan never replied to his requests, leaving his group without condoms to give away at Pride.
“The issue is that our whole role is to promote the use of condoms,” he says. In past years, the AIDS Committee of Durham Region had never been told that they had to hand out a certain condom brand, he adds.
Hammann says he understands this year’s sponsorship agreement. “But I really think in the case of condoms it’s unethical,” he says. This is about preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and STIs, he says. “To basically side with one company and to say no other condoms can be distributed bites in the face of what we’re doing.”
The AIDS Committee of Durham Region is not the only group affected by Trojan’s sponsorship deal. Toronto Public Health issued a memo to the Toronto HIV/AIDS Network on May 28 stating that condomTO, their branded condoms, could not be distributed at the Pride parade or other official Pride events.
Jann Houston, Toronto Public Health’s director of healthy living, says she is aware of Trojan’s sponsorship of WorldPride and respects the exclusive agreement. “Our focus is on the prevention of disease,” she tells Daily Xtra in an email. “We distribute approximately 3.4 million condoms to 300 community agencies and our sexual health programs each year.”
CondomTO will be available long after Pride ends, she adds. “Our main goal is to get Torontonians talking about safer sex.”
Kevin Beaulieu, the executive director of Pride Toronto, believes that their sponsorship deal allows them to hand out a great number of condoms.
“I think Pride is a great opportunity to spread the message about safer sex practices and, in fact, to distribute condoms,” he says, encouraging everyone to have a safe and fun Pride Week. Beaulieu notes that Pride tries to discourage groups from throwing condoms while walking in the parade because the heat can compromise the integrity of the product. Pride Toronto’s rules for people marching in the parade specify that condoms must be handed out, not thrown, to revellers.
Representatives from Church & Dwight and Trojan’s Canadian marketing firm did not respond to requests for comment.
Hammann and the AIDS Committee of Durham Region are now protesting the sponsorship agreement on Twitter, using the hashtag “#NotJustTrojans.”
“While we like the support of businesses and corporations, we as a community need to make certain that these corporations aren’t just looking at how they can make a profit off of us,” Hammann said in a speech at Pride Durham’s Queerstock on June 9.
Another group has no plans to let WorldPride’s sponsorship deal with Trojan stop them from handing out condoms. Tim McCaskell, a member of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, says his volunteers will be handing out Kimono brand condoms just outside the festival. While they don’t want to antagonize Pride Toronto, he says, they also won’t worry if a few non-Trojan condoms find their way onto Church Street.
“I’ve often said it’s a big party, and you can’t hold a party without balloons, and someone has to pay for the balloons,” he says. “But when the deals are set up in such a way that actually begins to interfere with people’s distribution of safer-sex information because they have the wrong kind of condoms, that deal needs a real looking at by the Pride board.”
If Trojan doesn’t respond to their request in advance of the parade, Hammann says, his group will likely buy another brand of condoms to distribute along the route.