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Hip-hop condoms to hit stores

By Meriah Doty

condom packaging
The art used to package Jimmie Hatz "Great Dane" condom.

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(CNN) -- When someone says "hip-hop," music is not the only thing that comes to mind. There are fashion lines and magazines representing a large and growing market.

Add to those a line of hip-hop condoms dubbed "Jimmie Hatz" -- due to hit select drug stores in early 2004.

Held in graffiti-style packages, the condoms come in three selections: XL Great Dane (extra large condom), Mixed Breed (contoured condom with dotted and ribbed texture) and the Rottweiler (standard size condom).

But this is no marketing ploy designed to line the pockets of executives, says Harry Terrell, CEO of Common Ground USA, the condom's manufacturer. "It's a full blown effort on our part to save our community."

Terrell says he was inspired to start the grass-roots campaign when he was coaching high school baseball and one of his students got infected with HIV.

"I wanted to be supportive of him as possible. I wanted to learn as much as I could about HIV and AIDS."

Out of that came the birth of his company. "I took all my money out of my 401k plan. Family members and friends have invested in the company," Terrell says.

His organization has worked on a grassroots AIDS outreach and awareness campaign since 1999, according to a recent press release. The company's aim has been to spread the word in high schools and colleges about abstinence and protection.

Terrell explains that until he saw the statistics, he was under the impression that HIV and AIDS was "a white man's disease." He says "I went to the Center for Disease Control Web site and I looked at the numbers. The numbers were staggering."

"The numbers represent to me [that] still in the inner city there's a lack of resources and education. It's as if nobody cares," Terrell adds.

His Jimmy Hatz Web site posts the latest information: "The CDC says the number of AIDS and HIV cases is increasing at alarming rate and shows no sign of decline. African-Americans represent the highest number followed by Hispanics. In 2000, the last year for which national facts are available, more African Americans were reported with AIDS than any other racial/ethinc group."

The product line was named in a bid to reach out to the hip-hop generation. "Jimmy hat" is a commonly used slang word for condom.

Terrell says he wanted to make wearing condoms "cool or the 'in' thing to do."

The CDC statistics, along with information about pregnancy rates among teens, STDs and a other resources, can be found on the his Web site. Terrell says a clothing line is in the works as well.

"The problem is really miseducation or lack of education," Terrell says. "I wanted to save the subculture called hip-hop."

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