“Even as a native New Yorker, I’m going to have to adopt Boston lingo and say we had a wicked pissah two days here in Boston handing out 350,000 free condoms,” said HIV advocate Condom Nation Program Manager Marco Benjamin. “This city definitely is ‘Boston Strong,’ and now we can truly say they’re also Boston Safe.”
The team’s specially decorated big rig and matching sprinter testing van stopped in Dorchester on June 11 and Roxbury on June 12, where Condom Nation representatives – including Benjamin and Condom Nation Truck Manager Pat Ruiz – handed out hundreds of thousands free condoms to the public while local health partners provide free HIV tests. During the first event in Dorchester, 150,000 prophylactics were distributed, and the town of Roxbury took the safer sex access even further: residents there received 200,000 free condoms from the team.
Partnering organizations for the two events include: Multicultural AIDS Coalition; Take the Test Boston; Boston Happens Program at Children’s Hospital; Whittier Street Health Center; Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts; Action for Boston Community Development Health Services Department; Outside of the Box Agency; Big City 101.3; and Project Protection at Martha Elliot Health Center.
Special Guest and Boston City Council Member Ayanna Pressley was present for Tuesday’s event in Dorchester, which was held at the Strand Theatre.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 1.4 million cases of chlamydia were reported in 2011, and reporting of new gonorrhea cases saw its second consecutive year of increase with more than 300,000 new cases that year. These are just some of the estimated 20 million new STD cases reported annually, half of which occur in young people aged 15 -24. The CDC estimates the health care costs to the nation for treating these diseases – which are preventable through condom use – to be about $16 billion per year.
“Condom Nation is about access to condoms,” said Condom Nation Director James Vellequette. “Our goal is to make condoms easily and readily available for free or at a very minimal cost to those receiving them through our widespread, national, fun and motivated distribution efforts. Simultaneously, we need to eliminate the stigma around having condoms, carrying them, selling them, or best of all, giving them away so that everyone has access to them whenever they need them.”
Condom Nation left Los Angeles on Sunday, March 10th, and before arriving in Florida made stops in Dallas, Texas – where the team dropped over 600,000 condoms for distribution to agencies in need across the south – and in Little Rock, Arkansas, where they provided more than 50,000 condoms to the state’s Department of Health. Also in March, the team made six stops throughout Florida, distributing over 175,000 condoms. In recent weeks, the group distributed free condoms in connection with two AHF “Keep The Promise on AIDS” Marches and Rallies in Brooklyn, NY and Cleveland, OH, and hosted three condom distribution and HIV testing events in Washington, D.C.
The Condom Nation Tour will now proceed to Springfield, Massachusetts and then on to Newark, New Jersey.