Illinois Governor’s Administration Defends Decision To Stop Distributing Flavored, Colored Condoms
Officials from the administration of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) on Wednesday defended their decision last month to stop the distribution of flavored and colored condoms that HIV/AIDS advocates have said are "helpful" in preventing the spread of the disease, the AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports (Wills, AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 12/2). The Illinois Department of Public Health since January has spent more than $117,000 in federal funding on condoms and plans to purchase a total of about 2.4 million condoms -- the majority of which are basic, lubricated condoms. However, as part of its order, the agency purchased 360,000 condoms that come in orange, lemon, grape and cherry flavors. An additional 910,000 condoms are orange, green, red and blue in color. The condoms were provided at no cost to patrons of public health clinics throughout the state and are seen by health department officials as an effective tool to curb the spread of HIV, syphilis and other STDs, particularly through oral sex (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/2). The annual cost of the flavored condom "giveaway" was estimated at $20,000, according to the Bloomington Pantagraph (Erickson, Bloomington Pantagraph, 12/1). However, Blagojevich about one month ago ordered the health department not to purchase any more condoms in bright colors or flavors, according to the AP/Post-Dispatch.
Administration Comments, Other Reaction
Rebecca Rausch, Blagojevich's spokesperson, said, "He just felt it was inappropriate," adding, "It's one thing to promote safe sex. It's another thing to encourage sexual activity." Louanner Peters, the governor's deputy chief of staff for human services, said that increased funding for HIV/AIDS education programs in minority areas, increased HIV testing and education programs for prison inmates who are about to be released and the distribution of "ordinary" condoms make a "sound" program to fight the disease, according to the AP/Post-Dispatch. "We have to help people make better choices rather than, in some instances, almost encouraging people to be a little more lax in their choices," Peters said. However, Don Hunt, supervisor at the health department, said he has not seen "any indication" that the colored or flavored condoms were encouraging "sexual activity that otherwise would not take place." He added that the department promotes "safe sex" but does not "encourag[e] sex," the AP/Post-Dispatch reports (AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 12/2).