Morehouse graduates Jason Panda and Ashanti Johnson have recently made headlines by taking a new and innovative approach to help decrease the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the community. They are the creators of b condoms, a plush prophylactic that focuses on changing sexual health practices in four main target audiences: African-Americans, Latinos, people 50 and older, and gay and bisexual males.

Their goal is to make condoms cool, which should induce more people to use them and, in turn, reduce transmission of HIV/AIDS.

The letter b was chosen by the company’s founders to give brand flexibility with its marketing.
“You can say b Latina, b African American, b gay or bisexual, b the Bronx, b Harlem, b what you are,” says Panda, 31.

To set the brand apart, the founders have enclosed the condoms in attractive packaging that contain the slogan: “b cool, b safe, b yourself.”

Panda and Johnson came up with the idea for b condoms after having discussions with other Morehouse colleagues last summer about the detrimental effects the AIDS virus was having on the nation, and around the globe. The reflections in that conversation morphed into a business plan prompting Panda and Johnson to invest $50,000 of their own money into b condoms, which officially launched on Dec. 1, 2010, World AIDS Day. Since then, the condoms have grown tremendously in popularity and with business booming, Johnson was able to resign from his sales and marketing position at Johnson & Johnson, and Panda from his job as a corporate attorney, to focus on marketing the product.

Taking their commitment to the prevention of HIV/AIDS one step further, the two young entrepreneurs have promised to reinvest a portion of company sales into organizations geared towards fighting the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in target communities.

“There are [other] condom companies, definitely, but we just didn’t see enough condom companies that wanted to make a change in the trajectory of HIV and AIDS in our community,” says Johnson.

The business partners are first and foremost focused on affecting urban communities and have already partnered with Bronx AIDS Services, Florida A & M University, the University of Southern California and their alma mater Morehouse College, which they worked with during this year’s National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

Currently, the urban brand’s classic condom is already available in small stores in NYC ($3 for a 3-pack), but they have high hopes of soon finalizing distribution deals for b condoms to be sold in large retail chains such as Walgreens and CVS pharmacy.

By the end of February, Panda, Johnson and the b condom team plan to offer the 3-pack of condoms on their website and the 12-pack and more selections such as their ribbed, large, and ultra thin brands in the near future.