Officials, Groups Agree to Chuck City's Brand

By Susan Levine
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 14, 2007

The District will phase out its unpopular D.C.-branded condom in favor of name brands as officials and health and social service groups work to put the city's condom campaign back on track.

A meeting yesterday with Health Department Director Gregg A. Pane and representatives of many of those organizations ended with agreement that the mustard-yellow and purple packet -- widely derided for appearance, slogan and durability -- has to go if the city is to successfully push this most basic defense against transmission of HIV and AIDS.

"The priority is getting a condom in people's hands that they're willing to use," said Carter Hewgley, a health programs analyst in the city administrator's office.

Thanks to a New Jersey manufacturer, a contingent of 350,000 Trojans soon will come to the rescue. The donation by Church & Dwight Co., is expected to arrive by the end of the month, according to a spokesperson for Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.

Health officials are not recalling any of the hundreds of thousands of condoms given for free to local organizations since February. As several participants at yesterday's gathering explained, their focus is on going forward.

"We have to make sure we continue this program," said A. Toni Young, co-chair of the advisory HIV Prevention Community Planning Group, who sees condom distribution as crucial to battling not just HIV/AIDS but other sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy.

Yet she added, "There needs to be a systemic approach to this," with more planning, education and evaluation. "You need to do it a different way. It's not just enough to give four cases [of condoms] to Joe."

After a week of negative publicity, acrimony and finger-pointing, the meeting struck a welcome positive note, participants said.

"There appeared to be a willingness to move through this smartly," said Kenneth Pettigrew, program director at Us Helping Us. "It was one of those times where people said, 'Bottom line, how are we getting our clients condoms and how are we going to make sure they're confident in the condoms we provide?'"

The city hopes to quickly purchase other well-recognized brands to supply a variety to the distribution effort. And no surprise: Officials say they would welcome other donations.

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