D.C. teens want bigger, better condoms 

City answers criticism by upgrading options in free program

D.C.'s one-size-fits-all approach to free condoms has the city's youth wanting bigger and better choices.

The Fenty administration announced Thursday that the District's well-regarded free condom program was trading up in response to a youth survey. Instead of handing out Durex condoms, the city will be handing out the more expensive Trojan brand, in the larger, "Magnum" size.

D.C.'s HIV and AIDS rate is second to none in the United States, with an infection rate that rivals parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Nearly one of every 20 District residents has HIV/AIDS. With a public health storm gathering, the city has taken an aggressive stance, handing out thousands of free condoms at schools, churches, clinics, liquor stores and barber shops.


HIV and AIDS in the District

»  16,513 HIV/AIDS patients through 2008

»  3.2 percent of the population

»  75.6 percent of HIV/AIDS patients are black

»  Cases increased more than 9 percent from 2007 to 2008

But the kids who were the intended target of the marketing blitz didn't cotton to the brand of condoms offered.


"Youth feel that Trojan [brand] condoms are of better quality and offer more protection," the city's report states. "Youth also regard Magnums as the best extra strength and protection against [diseases] and 'do not break' during sexual intercourse."

The study was first reported on the Washington Post Web site.

Trojan is the nation's best-selling condom brand. It's endorsed by, among others, hip-hop star Ludacris.

"I've had a few requests put in," said Nat Carter, whose Third Street Northwest barber shop hands out city condoms. "They're saying these are too small. Young 'uns , man."

It may not all be a youthful conceit: A March survey released by custom condom maker Condomania found that D.C. residents were the second-best-endowed in the nation.

Condoms have been in the news in the city in recent months. The city won high marks for being the first to hand out female condoms earlier this year. Around the same time, women's rights advocates blasted the police department for warning its officers that women who carried three or more condoms were likely to be prostitutes.

Kevin Spain of Alabama Express Liquors said that the city's condoms have been met with a lukewarm response in his Southeast shop.

"We definitely move more because they're free, but it's not been overwhelming," he said.

Still, the shop can't be too careful, Spain said.

"We have them sitting behind the counter," he said. "If we leave them out, somebody will take the whole jar."



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Bill Myers


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