ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – A U.S.-based charity is hoping to fight the spread of AIDS with a unique product that appeals to coffee mania in the country that claims to have invented the drink: java-scented condoms for Ethiopia.
Washington D.C.-based DKT International says the novelty product addresses a serious issue. Ethiopia has an AIDS rate of 2.1 percent, and in the capital it is more than 7 percent, according to government estimates. Andrew Piller, director of DKT's local chapter, said the aim of the coffee condoms was not to make money, but to make condom-users more comfortable.
DKT has noted some users' complaints about the latex scent of plain condoms, and has also tried to market condoms in other parts of the world tailored to local tastes, including those scented with the infamously stinky durian fruit in Indonesia and sweet-corn fragranced condoms in China.
In Ethiopia, consumers purchased some 300,000 coffee condoms during one week in September, the month the product was introduced here.
"Everybody likes the flavor of coffee," says a DKT spokeswoman, Emebet Abu.
The condoms sell in packs of three for 1 birr, or about 11 cents — about half the price of a cup of coffee in one of Addis Ababa's many sidewalk cafes, and much cheaper than unsubsidized condoms. The dark brown condoms smell like Ethiopia's popular macchiato, an espresso with a generous amount of cream and sugar.
"It is about time to use an Ethiopian flavor for beautiful Ethiopian girls," said Dereje Alemu, a 19-year-old university student.
But in a deeply conservative country, the prophylactic has attracted some criticism.
"It's inappropriate," said Bedilu Assefa, a spokesman for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, whose tens of millions of followers are encouraged to abstain from sex outside marriage. "We're proud of our coffee."
Even critics of the coffee condom, though, recognize the importance of safe sex.
"I hate coffee-flavored condoms," said a 37-year-old mechanic Tadesse Teferi. "But I use ordinary condoms when I have sex with ladies other than my wife."