American Red Cross Withdraws From Olympic Games Condom Distribution
The American Red Cross will no longer participate in the "Safe Games 2002" program, which is distributing condoms and other "safety" materials at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the Washington Post reports (Flaherty/Gaul, Washington Post, 2/22). Under the Safe Games 2002 program, volunteers from the Red Cross, the Utah AIDS Foundation, Planned Parenthood and 11 other health groups planned to distribute more than 250,000 condoms at both official "Olympic venues" and non-Olympic sites such as nightclubs. The organizations are also giving out hand warmers, lip moisturizer and pamphlets containing contact information for social services and taxis (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/6). Antiabortion groups and religious organizations protested the condom distribution, stating that the effort "encourage[s] promiscuity" and "lie[s] to kids about the effectiveness of condoms" (Fenoglio, National Journal, 2/23). Susan Sheehan, the chief executive of the Greater Salt Lake Area chapter of the Red Cross, said that protests "had nothing to do with" the chapter's decision to pull out of the Safe Games effort. The Post reports instead that an internal Red Cross memo criticized the project's condom distribution "tactics." Sheehan said, for example, that there were incidents of volunteers handing out "unsolicited" condoms to teens, even though Safe Games volunteers are not supposed give condoms to minors. But Luciano Colonna, one of the founders of Safe Games 2002, said she felt the Red Cross was bowing to pressure from protesters. "It's my feeling Red Cross gave in to the pressure from protesters. The responses we've had about our volunteers have been very positive," Colonna said. Safe Games volunteers have already distributed 100,000 condoms, and Colonna said that the program will not be affected by the Red Cross' withdrawal. The Safe Games 2002 program is separate from a program sponsored by the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee, which distributes condoms to athletes. Sheehan said that the Red Cross is the largest provider of AIDS prevention education in Utah, and the Salt Lake chapter had been a member of the AIDS prevention consortium for about 10 years (Washington Post, 2/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.