West Orlando News Online (03.19.13)
Aids Weekly Plus
AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s (AHF) Condom Nation program recently distributed approximately 60,000 free condoms in five hours to individuals in Orlando, Florida. The program uses an 18-wheeler, 72-foot big rig and a smaller HIV/AIDS testing unit. The purpose of Condom Nation is to make condoms easily and readily available to sexually active individuals. According to Marco Benjamin, program manager of the Condom Nation Tour, participants want to be sure that people are protected and to help lower the incidence of HIV and STDs in the community as well as let people know that condoms are accessible.
Benjamin thinks that, rather than being high priced and behind locked doors the way some drug stores sell them, condoms should be cheaper and easier to purchase. He contends that if condoms were more readily available, it would be much easier to have a conversation about using them and the taboo would no longer exist. Benjamin sees a connection among the lack of easy access to condoms, their high price, and the high rates of HIV/AIDS infections. He believes that there is a need to remove the stigma around condoms and to make condoms more readily available and free. He states that the program will continue until the United States is a “Condom Nation.”
Monica Rutherford, AHF’s regional manager, noted that there was a steady stream of visitors to the project. Some individuals picked up bags of condoms and others were tested for HIV/AIDS. She estimated that approximately 25 people were tested that day. Rutherford stated that individuals who tested positive could receive care and treatment whether or not they had insurance coverage. She explained that AHF has a mobile unit that serves Orange, Seminole, Osceola, and Lake Counties, providing care and treatment to HIV-infected individuals regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. Approximately 75 percent of the visitors to the project were minorities, many of whom expressed their gratitude for a program that protected their communities.
One week ago, the Condom Nation caravan began its second US tour in California. At present, it is visiting five Florida cities, including Orlando. It will head to Saint Petersburg and Fort Myers, then Fort Lauderdale for the Florida AIDS Walk and Music Festival on March 24. Afterward, the caravan will go to New York City for AHF’s Keep the Promise on AIDS March and Rally on April 6. The organizers’ goal is to distribute 50 million condoms nationwide. Last year, they distributed approximately 4.5 million free condoms.