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Free Condoms Distribution to Prevent HIV in Washington

Washington, D.C., health officials on Friday plan to distribute 250,000 city-branded condoms as part of the Department of Health's efforts to prevent the spread of HIV// and other sexually transmitted infections, the Washington Post reports.

The condom's purple and yellow package is printed in English and Spanish and carries the slogan, 'We've got you covered. Coming together to stop HIV in D.C.' The first batch of condoms will go to several not-for-profit organizations and community health providers. Officials said the number of condoms scheduled to be distributed on Friday will almost equal the total number distributed by the district in 2005 and 2006 combined. The department aims to distribute one million condoms by the end of 2007.

Gregg Pane -- director of the district's health department and the Administration for HIV Policy and Programs -- said he hopes the condoms will be placed prominently and accessibly in government buildings, health clinics, social service agencies, barbershops, nightclubs, convenience stores and other locations. 'We want to go places we haven't gone before,' Pane said, adding that the condom distribution efforts are 'overdue' and 'tangible proof we're doing something good for public health' (Levine, Washington Post, 2.16).

The health department said it will ensure that the condoms are free and easily obtainable by monitoring the organizations providing them (Health Department release, 2/15). Cyndee Clay -- executive director of HIPS, which helps commercial sex workers in the district -- said, 'Packaging is very important in normalizing condom use, in showing that condoms are something everyone should carry, that everyone can carry.' She added, 'But all the cool packaging in the world is not necessarily going to make up for the conversation.' Walter Smith of the DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice said, 'The good news is' that the packaging 'does have 'stop HIV' on it. It does say D.C. It does have impo rtant information.' He added that the campaign is 'a good first step' but that efforts should focus on providing condom access to the most at-risk populations. Ron Simmons, executive director of Us Helping Us, said that the district is 'going to have to do a really good social marketing campaign so people will become accustomed to the colors and packaging and realize these are reliable condoms.' This first batch of condoms expires in 2011.

Source-Kaiser Family Foundation

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