Stamford company’s trinkets raise awareness to STDs
STAMFORD — While record numbers of Americans contracted sexually transmitted diseases in recent years, a city-based company may be the only entity spreading them through the mail.
Giant Microbes, a toy company headquartered on the West Side, has discounted its STD-based trinkets to recognize the Center for Disease Control’s STD-awareness month. President Andrew Klein said he hopes the plush toys — with informational fact sheets that include prevention tips — will help bring infection rates down.
“All of our products are an amusing way to bring up important educational concepts,” Klein said.
Klein said the items are often purchased by parents, health teachers and medical professionals as well as “science geeks” looking for gag gifts.
“So you can give a friend herpes for Valentine’s Day,” he said.
The toys — for those who want a chlamydia, crabs or a clap education without the hassle of contracting — are flying off shelves in museum and gift stores, Klein said. Giant Microbes, founded in 2001 by Greenwich native Drew Oliver, has grown to now carry plush representations of some 200 viruses, bacteria, parasites and bugs.
Amid the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, the company made headlines for selling out of its brown worm-like version of the virus.
The toys may be fun, but the diseases they represent and the increasing rates at which they are contracted in the U.S. and Connecticut are a serious concern.
In Connecticut, 14,028 cases of chlamydia were reported in 2016 — a nearly 6 percent increase from the 759 reported in 2015. There were 2,745 cases of gonorrhea — a 31 percent increase from the 653 reported the previous year, according to the state Department of Public Health. The number of syphilis cases reported was 111, up 12 percent from 2015.
Those three diseases are among nine of the Stamford company’s sexually-transmitted offerings, including the addition of Zika.
But the best seller is herpes, a sunny little fellow, while lowly crabs fails to sell anywhere near its fellow insect, lice.
“Our herpes is very adorable,” Klein said. “It’s yellow. It looks like sunshine.”
Klein said chlamydia is the second-most popular STD item seller.
In addition to the STD-themed discounts, the company also posted an info-graphic and trivia contest on its website. The participant with the most correct answers to 15 STD questions will receive $100 worth of merchandise.
The company also pairs with non-profits on some toys. For example, 10 percent of the company’s proceeds on HIV — a little black fur ball — goes to amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research.
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