August 2, 2002
Exactly how the condoms will be distributed has not been decided, but vending machines have been ruled out. Steve Byers, executive director of AIDS Niagara, said the crew will not be intrusive and will only enter bars and restaurants upon invitation. He hopes there will not be a backlash against the program, since it should not be interpreted as promoting pre-marital sex or any disregard for religious values. There is also humor attached to the effort. The team will be highly visible, dressed in army fatigues and armed with condoms and information about HIV/AIDS.
Niagara Region's Public Health Department has operated a condom distribution program since the mid-1980s. Its program isn't the same as AIDS Niagara's outreach strategies; condoms are made available by the department under a provincial government mandate to prevent the spread of STDs as a case management and health promotion strategy. Most of the community outreach programs are done by AIDS Niagara, whose estimates show 4,200 people in Canada become infected with HIV every year. There are about 50,000 Canadians living with HIV. Since the early 1980s, 330 cases of HIV/AIDS have been reported in Niagara, but those statistics likely underestimate the scope of the local caseload.