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No More Free Condoms

by Richard Keldoulis in Health & Body , 31 december 2003


Amsterdam has stopped the distribution of free condoms in its gay saunas and darkrooms, after a two-year trial ended earlier this year. It is now one of the few Western cities without a free condom service in its gay venues. The discontinued trial was funded by Stichting Safe Service, part of the COC, and was conducted in collaboration with the Schorerstichting.

Stichting Safe Service uses its profits (from the sale of Hot Rubber condoms in the Benelux and Wett Stuff lubricant in Europe) to promote AIDS prevention in consultation with Aidsfonds.



According to Jan Leerveld from Safe Service, there was no particular reason why the project stopped.

The two-year trial ended and Safe Service has instead decided to put its resources into increasing the number of condom vending machines in gay venues.

Leerveld believes that the sale of cheap condoms - one for two condoms and lube - as well as the instruction leaflet that comes with the pack, is a more effective and consistent way to promote condom usage. Some ad hoc free distribution (for example for safe sex parties) has continued.


Throughout Europe and America, gay saunas and darkrooms have for most of the past 20 years been supplied with plentiful free condoms and lubricant. Large bowls of condoms can be found in gay cafes and restaurants in many cities in the world, free for the taking.
In Copenhagen even the cruising parks are provided with condoms at no charge. South Africa, with its enormous health care problems, also manages to stock every gay venue with free condoms.


In Australia free condoms in gay sex venues are part of the Department of Health guidelines: Condoms and lube will be freely available at all times, in all areas, where sex is likely to occur and preferably within ‘hands reach’.

People should not have to leave the area where sex is happening in order to locate condoms or lube.



Supplies of condoms and lube in areas where sex is likely to occur will be regularly monitored and replenished when low.
It is recommended this is done hourly to ensure adequate maintenance. Condoms and lube will be available in reasonably lit areas.

This is in stark contrast to the situation here in Amsterdam, where a forgotten rack of flyers and a Dark Angel sign above the entrance to some darkrooms proclaiming "I want this place to be safe" is about as far as most venues now go in promoting safe sex. Which probably also explains why the number of HIV positive cases in Amsterdam has now risen to 275% of the 1998 rate.








 







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