Group seeks to make free condoms more accessible
Ron Crowder proves one size condom does fit all.
(NNPA Photo by Ann Ragland)
By George E. Curry NNPA Editor-in-Chief
LAS VEGAS, NV. (NNPA) – No one should ever accuse organizers of Condom Nation, a project of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), of thinking small. A year ago, they came up with the idea of traveling around the nation and dispensing one million free condoms in 25 cities. So far, it has visited 45 cities and distributed four million condoms.
“We did a testing tour in 2009,” said James Vellequette, director of Condom Nation. “We decided we were going to emulate that and by driving around the country giving away condoms.”
“Next year, an even loftier goal has been set – a worldwide distribution of 100 million condoms. The primary goal is to reduce the number of HIV infections,” Vellequette said. But Condom Nation does more than distribute condoms. The 18-wheel rig that Vellequette drives from city to city is equipped to administer HIV and STD tests. Partnering with local agencies, Condom Nation can also refer those who test positive to local agencies that can pro-vide help.
Health officials said condoms are highly effective in reducing transmission of HIV.
According to a report by Population Action International, “Public health experts around the globe agree that condoms block contact with body fluids that can carry the HIV virus and have nearly 100 percent effectiveness when used correctly and consistently.”
But stigma, lack of access to free condoms and ignorance are factors that contribute to low condom use. At a workshop here last week at the United States Conference on AIDS, James Vellequette, director of Condom Nation, discussed the problems – and excuses – that account for people not using condoms.
Recalling a recent trip to South Carolina, he said: “We were giving out condoms to people who just don’t have them, to agencies that just don’t have them, to health departments that just don’t have them.”
Vellequette said he has learned lessons by visiting so many cities. He’s had good success at intersections with four-way traffic lights, bars, college campuses and clubs.
“The beauty salons are the best,” he explained. “The responsibility has always been on men. A lot of women are… taking responsibility for themselves.”