Washington, D.C., To Phase Out City-Brand Condoms, Use Brand Names in STI Prevention Effort, Officials Say
Washington, D.C., will phase out its city-brand condoms and use brand names in its condom distribution program that aims to reduce the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, officials said Thursday during a meeting at the city's HIV/AIDS Administration, the Washington Post reports. The meeting -- which was attended by Gregg Pane, director of the city's Department of Health, and representatives from organizations working to fight HIV/AIDS in the district -- "ended with agreement" that the DC-brand condoms have "to go if the city is to successfully" promote condom use as an HIV prevention method, according to the Post (Levine, Washington Post, 9/14).
District health officials in February distributed 250,000 condoms as part of the health department's STI prevention campaign. The first batch of condoms went to several not-for-profit organizations and community health providers. The health 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 distributed weekly in mid-March, but by late May, about 400 were 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 said has been distributed to groups. City health officials last week said that the condoms have met federal and industry standards for packaging and manufacturing.
Officials earlier this week announced that about 350,000 Trojan brand condoms are being donated to the city in an effort to maintain the program. 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 health department (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/13). According to the Post, city health officials will not recall any of the condoms that already were distributed, but they hope to purchase quickly other well-recognized brands to supply a variety of condoms to the campaign. Officials also said that they would welcome further condom donations, according to the Post.
"We have to make sure we continue this program," A. Toni Young, co-chair of the district's HIV Prevention Community Planning Group, said, adding, "There needs to be a systematic approach to this," with more planning, education and evaluation. According to Young, the district needs to distribute condoms in a "different way." She added that it is "not just enough to give four cases" of condoms to city residents. According to Kenneth Pettigrew, program director at Us Helping Us, the meeting was "one of those times where people said, 'Bottom line, how are we getting our clients condoms and how are we going to make sure they're confident in the condoms we provide?'" (Washington Post, 9/14).