Toy company turns sexually transmitted diseases into stuffed animals
Itchy, inflamed, scabby, swollen: These are all words commonly used to describe sexually transmitted diseases.
However, a toy company is rebranding STDs as ‘charming’ and ‘cuddly’ with a line of stuffed animals based on venereal diseases in honor of STD Awareness Month in April.
A bright yellow sunflower-shaped herpes and pink syphilis spiral are just a couple of the toys sold by GIANTmicrobes, a company founded to help teach kids about illness ‘in an entertaining and adorable way.’
While they would make a great gag gift for anyone who wants to be able to say: ‘I gave my girlfriend herpes,’ experts say the toys are not likely to be very helpful in an educational setting.
A toy company is selling stuffed animals based on sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes and syphilis (left to right) for STD Awareness Month in April
The toys are modeled on STD microbes but are millions of times larger. A syphilis toy from GIANTmicrobes is pictured left compared with a microscopic image of the disease
Drew Oliver founded GIANTmicrobes in 2002 with the goal of helping his kids understand the importance of washing their hands.
The first stuffed animal introduced was a Common Cold, and within a few years the business had grown to include 400 different items.
With this new product line the company hopes to penetrate a new area of the market with a more mature audience.
A press release from the company says: ‘Love might be in the air this spring, but just remember to stay safe and keep clean this 2018, and know GIANTmicrobes STDs are on the prowl and just can’t wait to jump in your pants!’
Despite the message associated with these goofy toys, the state of STDs in America is hardly something to laugh about.
Rates are at an all-time high and have increased for three years in a row.
One in two sexually active adults will contract a sexually transmitted infection by age 25.
An estimated 20 million new cases are reported annually, compared with 12 million three decades ago.
From 2015 to 2016 there was an 18.5 percent increase in gonorrhea, 17.6 percent increase in syphilis and 4.7 percent increase in chlamydia.
The toys are pictured at the airport in Phoenix, Arizona, after a medical conference
The company shares goofy photos of the toys as part of its marketing strategy. Gonorrhea is pictured driving in New York City (left) and chlamydia is pictured at the hair salon (right
Meredith Hudes-Lowder, a gynecologist in New York City, shared a collage of the toys participating in the March for Our Lives last month
The CDC launched the Treat Me Right campaign for the month of April that is focused on improving the relationship between patients and health care providers.
‘This year’s theme also opens the door to encourage patients to learn about STDs and STD prevention, but just as importantly, to empower them to ask their provider what they can do – and how they can work together – to stay safe and healthy,’ Bolan wrote in a statement.
GIANTmicrobes hopes to aid that mission.
‘According to the CDC, shame and embarrassment are [among] the main reasons people avoid getting tested,’ GIANTmicrobes president Andrew Klein told Daily Mail Online.
‘It’s important to break the stigma surrounding STDs so people can start to feel more comfortable not only getting tested, but talking openly about STDs with their partner, healthcare provider or child.’
Each plush toy costs $7.95. The chlamydia toy is pictured (left) compared with a microscopic image of the disease (right)
The stuffed animals measure from five to eight inches. The crab louse toy is pictured (left) compared with a microscopic image of the creature (right)
The toys each come with an information card with facts about the disease.
Klein said the toys are meant for ‘anyone with a healthy sense of humor’.
The company’s press release suggests they make a great gift for a ‘partner, friend, EX, child, or student’.
Nicole Cushman, executive director at sex ed company Answer, told Daily Mail Online: ‘Sex educators – myself included – love to collect these things because they’re silly and fun, but they don’t necessarily help educate people about STDs.
‘They could be used with teens or slightly younger adolescents to break down fear and stigma around STDs, but they don’t hold much educational value on their own. The value comes from how an educator might utilize them.’
She added: ‘They certainly don’t cause any harm either.’
The furry toys are several million times larger than the microbes in real life, measuring from five to eight inches.
Each plush toy costs $7.95 and a four-pack of herpes, the clap, chlamydia costs $29.95.
There’s an Instagram tag where fans have posted photos of their furry friends traveling around the globe.
GIANTmicrobes created the infographic about STDs shown above as part of its marketing efforts