District of Columbia Could Be ‘Free-Prophylactic-Dispensing Capital’ of the United States, Opinion Piece Says
Although District of Columbia health officials' plan to distribute free condoms through dispensers installed in select government offices is intended to "cut down on the rise of AIDS in the district," is it the "right way to go" to make the district the "free-prophylactic-dispensing capital of America?" columnist Colbert King asks in his Washington Post column (King, Washington Post, 12/6). Officials for the district -- which has the country's highest AIDS prevalence -- last week announced that they hope to install more than 50 condom dispensers in offices frequented by D.C. residents, including the D.C. Housing Authority and the departments of Human Services, Motor Vehicles and Public Works. Officials also plan to distribute 550,000 male condoms, 45,000 latex dental dams and 30,000 female condoms over the next 12 months. In addition, the city plans to expand a program through which it distributes free condoms at beauty salons, barber shops and nightclubs. About 8,000 people in the district have AIDS, and officials estimate that another 14,000 district residents are HIV-positive, the majority of who are not aware that they have the virus (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/3). King says that the government "[o]f course" should promote the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and teen pregnancy. And although "promoting condoms and their proper use is fine," should that be "the extent of government responsibility?" King asks. King wonders if condom distribution in public schools will "simply ... make promiscuous sex 'safer.'" King says that by making condoms "freely available ... D.C. taxpayers -- through their government -- also assume the role of facilitator for youths and adults, including the emotionally confused or immature risk-taker who" is sexually active without being in a monogamous relationship (Washington Post, 12/6).
CNN's "Crossfire" on Friday debated public condom distribution with Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a sex therapist and author of "Human Sexuality," and Genevieve Wood, vice president of the Family Research Council (Begala/Carlson, "Crossfire," CNN, 12/5). The complete transcript of the program is available online.