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Washington, D.C., Community Groups Return 70,000 Condoms Given Away in City-Wide Program to Reduce STIs

October 1, 2007

Community groups in Washington, D.C., last week returned up to 70,000 of the condoms given away earlier this year as part of a city program that aims to reduce the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, the AP/ reports. According to the AP/, about 100,000 condoms were returned by the groups in September due to complaints that the paper packing could make the condoms ineffective (AP/, 9/30). The city's HIV/AIDS Administration has an additional 350,000 of the program's city-brand condoms that were never distributed (Levine, Washington Post, 9/29).

District health officials in February distributed 250,000 condoms as part of the Department of Health's STI prevention campaign. The first batch of condoms went to several not-for-profit organizations and community health providers. The Health Department said it aimed to distribute one million condoms by the end of 2007. The condoms' 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."

Concerns about the condoms arose almost immediately after the program began. Demand at two distribution sites established by not-for-profit organizations dropped by more than 80% shortly after the condoms were introduced. More than 2,000 packets were distributed weekly in mid-March, but by late May, about 400 were dispensed weekly. Volunteers said people complained about condom packets "ripping in purses or bursting open in pockets," and some recipients said they lacked confidence that the condoms would provide protection. In addition, the expiration dates on some of the condoms were illegible. A coalition of not-for-profits returned about 100,000 condoms to the district, about 15% of what the city said has been distributed to groups. City health officials last month said that the condoms have met federal and industry standards for packaging and manufacturing.

Officials last month announced that they will phase out its city-brand condoms and use brand names in its condom distribution program. About 350,000 Trojan brand condoms are being donated to the city from Church and Dwight Co. Inc. -- the New Jersey-based company that manufactures the condoms -- in an effort to maintain the program, according to officials (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/14). A spokesperson for Mayor Adrian Fenty on Saturday said that the city Health Department recently has received 125,000 new brand-name condoms. Shipments totaling 400,000 more condoms are expected in the next two weeks and deliveries should begin within days, the spokesperson said (Washington Post, 9/29).

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