New York City was the first city in the world to have its own municipally branded condom, and it currently maintains the largest free condom programme in the United States of America. Even in this high income, cosmopolitan city, free condom distribution is instrumental in preventing HIV, other sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies among key populations. Free condom distribution is included as a cost-saving and cost-effective prevention strategy within the 2015 Blueprint for ending the AIDS epidemic in New York State by 2020.
New York City's free condom programme started in 1971, with free condoms distributed through the city's clinics for sexually transmitted infections. In 2007, the Health Department launched the NYC Condom. Since then, every National Condom Awareness Day (held on St Valentine's Day) has included a change in the look of the NYC condom packaging or the addition of a new layer of social marketing to the programme.
The Health Department supplies male condoms, female condoms and lubricant freely to any New York City organization or business that wishes to distribute them. In 2011, the Health Department created the NYC Condom Finder, a mobile phone application that uses GPS to assist users to find condom outlets across the city; this app has been downloaded by tens of thousands of people.
New York City's Condom Availability Program (NYCAP) has over 3500 condom distribution partners and in 2014 distributed over 37.1 million male condoms and almost 1.2 million female condoms across the five boroughs. These partners focus distribution on neighbourhoods with the highest rates of HIV in the city, and to locations that serve people living with HIV and key populations, such as gay men and other men who have sex with men.
The programme works to increase the awareness, availability and accessibility of condoms to the residents of New York City by maintaining a strong community presence. In 2014, NYCAP participated in over 105 community events, provided 825 presentations in the Health Department's clinics for sexually transmitted infections, and participated in all official and unofficial Gay Pride events in the city, reaching over 53 500 individuals.
Awareness and access to NYC Condoms is high among key populations. Over 75% of individuals polled at Gay Pride events and an African American Day Parade had seen or heard of NYC Condoms and had obtained them.
At the Health Department's clinics for sexually transmitted infections, 86% of people surveyed were aware of NYC Condoms and 76% had obtained them. Condom use was also high, ranging from 69% to 81% among people who obtained NYC condoms.
Since the launch of the NYC Condom, more than 300 million NYC Condoms have been distributed. The trend in new diagnoses of heterosexually transmitted HIV infections has been reversed with a reduction of 52% between 2007 and 2014.