Condoms Returned To Washington Health Department Because Of Concerns About Packaging

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Tens of thousands of condoms that the Washington, D.C., Department of Health provided at no cost to residents have been returned because of concerns about the condoms' packaging and safety, the Washington Post reports (Levine, Washington Post,9/5). District health officials in February distributed 250,000 condomsas part of the health department's efforts to prevent the spread of HIVand other sexually transmitted infections. The first batch of condomswent to several not-for-profit organizations and community healthproviders. The department said it aimed to distribute one millioncondoms by the end of 2007. The condoms' purple and yellow package isprinted in English and Spanish and carries the slogan, "We've got youcovered. Coming together to stop HIV in D.C." (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/16).


According to the Post,concerns about the condoms "arose almost immediately" after the programbegan. Demand at two distribution sites established by not-for-profitorganizations dropped by more than 80% shortly after the condoms wereintroduced. More than 2,000 packets were being distributed weekly inmid-March, but by late May, about 400 were being dispensed weekly, the Postreports. Volunteers said people complained about condom packets"ripping in purses or bursting open in pockets," and some recipientssaid they lacked confidence that the condoms would provide protection,according to the Post. In addition, the expiration dates on some of the condoms were illegible, the Post reports.

Officialsat about six organizations that had been distributing the condomsinterviewed on Tuesday said they received negative feedback fromclients. Many clients said that the condoms' packaging seemedsubstandard, according to the Post. "People were saying, 'These packets aren't any good,'" Franck DeRose -- executive director of the Condom Project,which was involved with the distribution program -- said. A coalitionthat includes the Condom Project returned about 100,000 condoms to thedistrict, about 15% of what the city says has been distributed togroups. Metro TeenAIDSExecutive Director Adam Tenner said some youths involved with the group"doubted the authenticity of the condoms" and wondered why the wrapperswere not plastic or foil, like those sold in stores. "Distribution ofthose condoms has been really difficult," he said, adding, "Thequestion becomes, how do we fix this?"

DeRose said thenot-for-profit groups tried to warn officials before sending back thecondoms. "There was no talk about (getting) a different condom," hesaid, adding, "They said, 'This is what we have.'" The coalition, whichlaunched a condom distribution program last fall, has begun purchasingits own condoms again. The coalition's condoms are being used uprapidly, according to the Post. The health department "apparently does not consider the situation a problem," according to the Post.Health department spokesperson Leila Abrar said in a statement, "Todate, we have not received any substantive complaints." According tothe statement, the district has distributed nearly 650,000 condomssince February through partnerships with 50 organizations. The healthdepartment has taken notice of the comments about the district condoms'packaging, the Post reports. According to Abrar's statement, the city will hold a "contest for new versions" of its next condom package (Washington Post, 9/5).

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