The Washington DC Department of Health launched a “DC Rubber Revolution” campaign to destigmatize condom use and make condoms more accessible to DC residents. Residents can visit the website at www.RubberRevolutionDC.com to request condoms, take quizzes, and learn some interesting facts on condoms. I along with many other residents welcome this campaign as DC has the highest rates of people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. Adrian Fenty states, “The District is proud of its aggressive approach to address this issue, and we hope to build on our success as one of only two cities in the country with a public sector condom distribution program that has provided more than 3.5 million free condoms last year.” While I agree with Adrian Fenty and am proud of what he calls an ‘aggressive approach’, I can’t help but pause and think about the fact that 30 years after HIV/AIDS was first recognized by the CDC, condom distribution is still considered aggressive and continues to be rare and up for debate.
Conservative leader, Valerie Huber from the National Abstinence Education Association argues that the campaign “minimizes the real risk of casual sex and sends a message that promiscuity is ok as long as you’re protected.” The fact of the matter is that this statement has been proven false over and over again. According to numerous studies, educating youth about condoms does not promote sexual activity. Research clearly indicates that education about condoms does not lead to increased rates of sexual initiation, lower the age of sexual initiation, or increase sexual activity among young people. Condom promotion does however increase condom usage and prevent the transmission of disease.
I am very thankful for programs like DC Rubber Revolution and have personally been involved in various condom distribution efforts both in DC and on the national level. Locally, I distribute condoms while volunteering with a program that does outreach to sex workers in DC. At Advocates for Youth, I coordinate the Great American Condom Campaign that distributes 1 million condoms to college student each year. I have never viewed condom distribution as something controversial, but rather a tool to help keep my communities safe. I look forward to the day when we no longer debate the value of these programs, but instead, as a society, see them as normal public health efforts.
Upon the release of the DC Rubber Revolution I received some notes of concern from local health professionals that I respect. Dr Terrence Gerace, the founder of the DC ToolK!t campaign wished that the website covered more information on how to correctly use a condom. I agree with Terrence that in order to run an effective condom distribution campaign, distribution efforts must be coupled with clear and effective information.
Right now the website includes the following images with no text:
Both Terrance and I would like to see a more detailed set of instructions on how to put on a condom. Please check out Advocates for Youth factsheet on how to use a condom. All in all, I am very excited about this new development. I look forward to seeing more health departments take similar proactive steps in preventing the transmission of disease. I just placed my order for 10 condoms today. Can’t wait to get them in the mail!