Manufacturer To Donate 350,000 Trojan Brand Condoms to Washington, D.C., For City’s HIV Prevention Efforts
About 350,000 Trojan brand condoms are being donated to Washington, D.C., in an effort to "salvage the city's battered condom distribution program in its fight against" HIV/AIDS, the Washington Post reports. According to a spokesperson for Mayor Adrian Fenty, the shipment from Church and Dwight Co., Inc. -- the New Jersey-based company that manufactures the condoms -- is expected to arrive by the end of the month. City officials anticipate that the Trojan condoms will supplement and not replace the hundreds of thousands of condoms distributed at no-cost by the Department of Health, according to the Post (Levine, Washington Post, 9/12).
District health officials in February distributed 250,000 condoms as part of the health department's efforts to prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The first batch of condoms went to several not-for-profit organizations and community health providers. The department said it aimed to distribute one million condoms by the end of 2007. The condoms' purple and yellow package is printed in English and Spanish and carries the slogan, "We've got you covered. Coming together to stop HIV in D.C."
Concerns about the condoms arose almost immediately after the program began. Demand at two distribution sites established by not-for-profit organizations dropped by more than 80% shortly after the condoms were introduced. More than 2,000 packets were being distributed weekly in mid-March, but by late May, about 400 were being dispensed weekly. Volunteers said people complained about condom packets "ripping in purses or bursting open in pockets," and some recipients said they lacked confidence that the condoms would provide protection. In addition, the expiration dates on some of the condoms were illegible. A coalition of not-for-profits returned about 100,000 condoms to the district, about 15% of what the city says has been distributed to groups.
City health officials last week said that the condoms have met federal and industry standards for packaging and manufacturing. The health department last week also said that district health officials are evaluating the effectiveness of the condom distribution program, "including feedback on the quality of the condoms and receptivity by clients" and that the results will help determine which condoms are purchased in the future (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/6).
A number of organizations working to fight HIV/AIDS in the district have been invited to attend a meeting Thursday at the headquarters of the city's HIV/AIDS Administration to discuss the matter. However, the Trojan condoms likely will "come to the rescue faster than changes can be made," according to the Post.
"It's a goodwill gesture," incoming HIV/AIDS Administrator Shannon Hader said, adding that she hopes "this will be an opportunity to separate confidence and function from preference and image. They really get blurred." Some groups involved with the condom distribution efforts praised the Trojan donation. "We're moving in the right direction," David Mariner of D.C. Fights Back said, adding, "There's been such scrutiny of D.C.'s condoms that it's necessary to use name-brand condoms going forward."
Mariner also said that future distribution should be conducted more strategically. City officials cannot say how many condoms have been handed out or to whom, the Post reports. "For me, it's a question of, do we have a plan in place to get these condoms into the hands of the people who need them?" Mariner said.
Hader said that the district's program should move forward with the goal of quickly transferring the condoms from "distribution point to people." She added, "That's going to be a really important part of an overall logistics and distribution plan" (Washington Post, 9/12).
The news that the condoms distributed by the district were packaged in inadequate materials was a "frightening reminder that the district's HIV/AIDS epidemic isn't being fully addressed," a Washington Times editorial says. According to the editorial, there are district employees "who must be held accountable" if fighting HIV/AIDS continues to be the No. 1 priority of Fenty's administration. "Regardless of quantity and quality, HIV/AIDS is not a public relations issue; it is a public health issue," the editorial says, adding, "Instead of merely 'blanketing the city' with condoms, the mayor needs to stare down the enemy within -- and it's called incompetency" (Washington Times, 9/13).