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Free condoms, anyone?

Lifesaver campaign a success

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Apr 01/02) - Muktaaq is delicious and condoms are smart, but a union of the two -- a muktaaq-flavoured condom -- doesn't exactly inspire feelings of romance or carnal desire in a person.

But then again, the Lifesavers Project was more about spreading information than creating a love-filled atmosphere.

So says Todd Armstrong, Pauktuutit's senior adviser on HIV/AIDS programs.

Armstrong played a key role in designing the condom project launched in Iqaluit by the Canadian Inuit HIV/AIDS Network during the Arctic Winter Games. Pauktuutit funds the Network and its various health initiatives. Featuring five condoms with wrappers presenting five country food flavours (they don't actually taste like caribou or muktaaq -- that's part is a joke), the rubbers were handed out at different sites once participants got a project passport stamped.

When all five stamps and condoms were collected, individuals were rewarded with a Lifesavers T-shirt.

After handing out almost 20,000 condoms and 2,400 passports in five days, Armstrong declared the project as a roaring success.

"It was remarkable. The feedback we got from the minister of health, from the athletes -- everyone thought it was a valuable program that broke down a number of barriers for kids and gave out safety materials," said Armstrong.

He said he received calls for information about the project from as far away as France and from aboriginal groups around the country.

"We're joining the past with the present to protect the future. That's the angle that caught everyone and made them notice," said Armstrong.

"We're all a little stunned it was this successful."

Even the comedians starring on the television program Royal Canadian Air Farce warmed to the idea of the country-food condoms and joked about the project on a recent episode.

"I guess it was successful if it made it on the Air Farce," Armstrong said.

To keep the momentum going, Lifesavers Project Kits -- containing condoms, T-shirts, passports and HIV/AIDS information -- are being sent to all 53 Canadian Inuit communities to further assist in spreading knowledge about the disease. Community health representatives will use the kits as a teaching tool.

"Our goal was to provide information as best we could."