New York City Health Department Could Discontinue Distribution of Subway-Themed Condoms, Health Commissioner Says
New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden on Monday said that the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene could discontinue a condom-distribution program if it is found that the program is not increasing safer-sex practices among high-risk groups, the New York Post reports (Bennett , New York Post, 5/8). The health department in January approved a $1.57 million contract to deliver Ansell Healthcare's Lifestyle condoms and packets of lubricants to organizations and venues in the city to help curb the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, as well as to prevent unplanned pregnancies. The health department will pay Ansell four cents per condom, putting the cost of the program at about $720,000 annually, according to health officials.
City health officials in February unveiled the official condom, which features a subway theme with different colors for various train lines. Officials plan to track the progress of the program through an annual community health survey, which polls 10,000 city residents by telephone. Organizations or venues can request an unlimited supply of condoms at no cost through an online ordering system set up by the city health department. The health department in April announced that from mid-February to mid-March it distributed five million no-cost condoms, or about two condoms per every man living in the city (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/6).
According to the Post, the city from March 15 to April 15 distributed 3.7 million condoms. Frieden said that it is unclear whether the condoms are reaching target groups, such as men who have sex with men. "If we find launching this brand didn't increase at all safe sex among the groups at highest risk, we may stop it entirely," Frieden said. However, he also said that "brands increase the appeal of a product." Frieden did not rule out the launch of a new condom brand. According to the Post, the condoms are still popular at their distribution sites. More than 100,000 New York residents are HIV-positive and about 25% do not know their HIV status, according to estimates from the health department, the Post reports.
New York Assembly Considers Bill That Would Require Providers To Offer HIV Tests to all Patients Ages 13 to 64
In related news, the New York General Assembly is considering a bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Richard Gottfried (D) and Sen. Thomas Duane (D), that would require all health care providers in the state to offer HIV tests to all patients ages 13 to 64 "as a standard part of diagnostic services," the New York Post reports. In addition to physicians, the bill would require nurse practitioners, physician assistants and midwives to offer HIV tests to all patients or face civil penalties. The requirement would be waived in emergency situations, according to the Post (Bennett , New York Post, 5/8).