On June 4, the regional government of Catalonia, in northeastern Spain, decided to install condom vending machines in schools, defying rulings of the Roman Catholic Church. The decision came after figures showed a surge in HIV in young mothers.
"We have clear signs that less safe sex is being practiced, as if AIDS was no longer a problem," said Marina Geli, Catalonia's director of health. The move represents an attempt to control HIV's spread among a generation that no longer thinks it is a threat.
Cardinal Alfonso Perez Trujillo, a Vatican figure visiting Spain, accused those who promote condoms of playing Russian roulette with young people's health and lashed out against the "condom festivals" supported by public authorities.
Rising HIV among Catalonia's youth, especially women, is a challenge to local health authorities. One in 75 mothers under age 20 have been infected, according to tests carried out on 50 percent of the region's newborn babies.
The vending machines, like those in libraries, universities and sports clubs, will sell condoms at half price. The final decision on whether to install the machines in each school will rest with a managing committee of staff and parents. The machine-installation plan includes a sex-education program.
"Everything that adds to the education of the young and to the information available to them is welcome," said Lola Abello of the Federation of Associations of Parents of Schoolchildren in Catalonia. However, a similar plan was shelved years ago due to indignation from conservative parents and the refusal of church-run schools to allow the machines on their premises.