Army fights STDs with free condoms
By STEVE MRAZ | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 15, 2008
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Two thousand free condoms are being placed in Army gyms and clubs around Kaiserslautern in an effort to combat sexually transmitted diseases.
Clear plastic bins began showing up late Friday afternoon with stickers that read: “Readiness doesn’t end when the uniform comes off.” The bins were placed in the bathrooms of eight Army gyms and clubs that fall under U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern, including the Landstuhl Combined Club, Armstrong’s on Vogelweh Housing and The Oasis on Kleber Kaserne.
The condom give-away comes from the U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern and Army Public Health Nursing at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, according to stickers on the bins. The condoms are intended for adults only and they should only take “one pair,” according to the bins.
“If we can stop at least one [STD case], we’ve made a difference,” said Steve Pelletier, director of the Kaiserslautern garrison’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. “This is another one of the command’s tools to mitigate risk.”
The condom give-away is not expected to be recurring, and once the 2,000 condoms are distributed, the effort will end, Pelletier said. Some locations had already run out of their allotted amounts after the weekend.
“As a health organization, we always support methods of preventing the spreading of communicable diseases,” said Army Col. William Corr, chief of preventive medicine at Landstuhl. “Studies and surveys indicate that public distribution of condoms have slowed down the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.”
A young soldier interviewed Monday at Landstuhl raised his eyebrows when told the Army was giving away condoms at gyms and clubs.
“It’s crazy,” said Spc. Joshua Jackson, who works in patient administration at Landstuhl. “Why give them out at gyms and clubs? You should already have them on you if you’re engaging in sexual activity.”
Ramstein Air Base is not giving away condoms in conjunction with the Army effort, said Darlene Cowsert, 435th Air Base Wing spokeswoman.
Distribution of free condoms in public areas, especially high schools, has drawn criticism in the past in the States with some arguing that the practice promotes promiscuity. However, free condoms have been available at Army health clinics in Europe and are widely available at public health clinics in America.
Locations where the free condoms are available were chosen to minimize exposure to youths, Pelletier said. Gyms require children age 16 and under to be supervised by an adult, and the clubs are adult-only most of the time, he said.