Washington D.C. Gives Away Uncool, Defective Condoms

We’re sure that Washington D.C. meant well when it started giving away free condoms in order to help stop the spread of H.I.V. in the US city with the highest AIDS rate. One problem: The condoms suck.

From the Washington Post:

Volunteers concerned about why interest had dropped began asking people who had picked up the condoms. They were told about packets ripping in purses or bursting open in pockets. As a result, recipients said they had little confidence that the condoms would offer protection.

In addition, expiration dates on some of the Chinese-made condoms were illegible.

“People were saying, ‘These packets aren’t any good,’ ” said Franck DeRose, executive director of an organization called the Condom Project, one of those involved in the grass-roots distribution system.

Well, that’s really disappointing. Consumers also don’t like the way the package looks. It’s emblazoned with the slogan “Coming Together to Stop HIV in D.C.” We nominate those words as the very last thing we want to read before having sex. We could probably think of worse things to print on a condom, but we don’t want to.

According to the Post, the D.C. health department doesn’t think the condoms are a problem. “To date, we have not received any substantive complaints,” spokeswoman Leila Abrar said in a statement.

We would be remiss not to point out how cool the NYC subway condom is. It’s free and cool looking, and as far as we know it doesn’t explode in your purse.

Concerns Affect D.C. Condom Giveaway [Washington Post] (Thanks, Les!)
NYC Condoms
(Photo:Jeff Kubina)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Buran says:

    What did you expect from a government project? Always, the lowest bidder is used.

    Expired, Chinese-made products are going to be cheaper than quality, made-in-USA products. And these days people DO want to pay for that quality but the government isn’t really accountable to you, so what does it care?

  2. rmz says:

    And the Chinese condom train keeps on a-rollin’…

  3. TheBigLewinski says:

    The toxic chemicals in it make your pee-pee shrivel and fall-off.

  4. rmz says:

    Also — “coming together” — har har, I get it. Very witty, D.C.

  5. crashman2600 says:

    I hear they make you hard as lead.

  6. According to the Post, the D.C. health department doesn’t think the condoms are a problem.

    Are there really good intentions anymore? In fact, by handing out expired condoms they are doing more harm than good.

  7. warf0x0r says:

    Wow, just wow.

  8. Antediluvian says:

    I don’t think it’s constructive to condemn a project merely because it’s “a government project.” And no, the lowest bidder is NOT always used. Sometimes projects take other factors into consideration.

    The NYC condoms are from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, according to the site linked above. I don’t know where they’re made — they’re made by Lifestyles.

    I know that the free condom distribution programs in Boston run by the local AIDS groups usually have a variety of kinds and styles to choose from, but they’re not house-branded.

  9. King of the Wild Frontier says:

    DC’s response is really sad, seeing how cool the NYC site is; it makes me want to go there just to “get some” (and a nice use of that phrase, not to mention the association with the subway, which works on so many levels–riding, the whole Freudian thing). Who’s in charge of DC’s program, Michael “Heckuva Job” Brown?

  10. Antediluvian says:

    Last paragraph FTFA:

    The health department has taken note of the critical comments about the appearance of the D.C. condom’s package. For its next bulk buy, it will hold a “contest for new versions,” according to Abrar’s statement.

  11. Antediluvian says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation:
    Since the condoms were recently ordered, there is no reason to think they’re out of date, and nothing anywhere at all in the article suggested the condoms handed out were expired. It said some of the expiration dates were hard to read (illegible). Very different from expired.

    Please give the organizations SOME credit — no health group would knowingly hand out expired condoms.

  12. stopNgoBeau says:

    ICAN was passing a bunch out this weekend at Southern Decadence in New Orleans. They tried to give me some, but I insisted I didn’t need them. I’m not ever that lucky.

    The guy just looked at me and said “they’re good till 2011, surely you’re not that dry…”

    I love it!

  13. Buran says:

    @Antediluvian: Government projects work by contracting someone to do the job. The budget is nearly always too small. So to get the job done within the not-enough amount of money provided, corners get cut.

    The government doesn’t exactly have a track record that inspires confidence. If they want to show that they didn’t go with the lowest bidder, point me to a statement that proves that. Otherwise, I’ll stick with my knowledge of how they operate.

    It’s as if the government has never before tried to be cheap and still look like they’re doing something …

  14. Flackette Goes Retro says:

    Didn’t Consumer Reports do some condom testing and find that the poorest performing ones were the free ones from Planned Parenthood?

    This is why condoms aren’t something to go cheap on.

  15. Flackette Goes Retro says:

    Oh, also my favorite condom giveaway slogan is at a local head shop. They have a sign by the free condoms that says “Please take a condom, for your fucking safety.”

  16. The Unicorn says:

    @flackette: I don’t think so — most Planned Parenthoods give out Lifestyles condoms, which as far as I know test just as well as any other brand. They’re just a bit cheaper because, unlike Durex/Trojan, they don’t advertise.

  17. gibsonic says:

    love of sex related articles on the consumerist today…hmmm

  18. gibsonic says:

    err … lot of sex related articles…

    freudian slip?

  19. edjusted says:

    Made in China, and no mention of lead paint?! Come on!

  20. ShadowFalls says:

    Ofcourse they aren’t receiving complaints, people have either died from AIDS or filing for welfare…

  21. Antediluvian says:

    Wow. I used to respect your opinion in the past but lately you’re just over the top w/ the snarkiness and unpleasant attitude (see yesterday’s AT&T warranty comments you made).

    You’re wrong about how contracting with the government works.

    How do I know that “lowest bidder” is not the primary criterion in most government contracts these days? Because I’ve evaluated and awarded government contracts.

    Have you?

  22. skrom says:

    Make them buy their own damn condoms. Im so sick of these handout programs that waste so much money. If they cant afford condoms, then they shouldnt have sex. Having sex is NOT something you HAVE to do. Now we are going to have to waste MORE government money on these lazy bastards with no jobs to raise their kids too.

  23. rawsteak says:

    this reminds me of that movie, “High School High” with Jon Lovits… the movie wasn’t that great, but there’s a part where the school nurse has a whole bunch of safe sex and std-related pamphlets, which she then staples right through a condom to hand out to students!

  24. kimsama says:

    Remember that this is the D.C. government, not the federal government (which is bad, but hey, I think D.C.’s wins the terrible-execution-of-any-plan award).

    The D.C. government is perma-feckless. The schools are terrible and closing down, the water is chock full o’ lead (although the D.C. health department claims it’s safe, too, hmm…), and it can’t even run a free condom program properly.

    Also, yesterday a bunch of buses were free all day in D.C. because “the system was down.” Not that I’m complaining…but when a city spends so much on administration and gets next to nothing in return, it’s just kinda sad.

  25. Buran says:

    @Antediluvian: I apologized if I misread anyone’s intentions, I guess you didn’t see that. But, sad to say, I’ve had firsthand experience too with how the government works.

    I am able to admit when I screwed up, but sometimes, different people have had different experiences. And this is one of those times.

    But my point stands — can you point to anything about how this particular contract was awarded? If I’m wrong, in this particular case, I’ll admit that.

    My comments about warranty denials were from experience, too.

    I guess on the intarweb it’s a lot easier to claim snarkiness and fling insults than anything else. And I’m not being snarky with that comment either. It’s just the truth — I see it everywhere. I wish I didn’t.

    I’m admitting I can be wrong sometimes. Are you going to disrespect that, too?

  26. Buran says:

    @Buran: Also, I directly apologize to you if I offended you. I don’t dislike anyone here. But I can’t stand it when I’m assumed to be talking out my ass when I’m not. Not one person took the time and directly asked me “has this ever happened to you? Tell your story”.

    You did, so I’m assuring you that I don’t make this stuff up…

  27. letoofdune says:

    My college fraternity used to buy a huge box of condoms from the healthcare facility on campus and leave them in our bathroom. They were dirt cheap and awesome – we never had to buy any, and they were always available. If my college fraternity can afford to keep our members safe, why the hell can’t a city government do the same?

    Yes – I know it’s not the government’s job to provide condoms to its citizens. That was probably left out of the Bill of Rights. But if you’re going to provide a service and claim that it works, then it should probably work.

    I realize that these condoms were probably fine. They didn’t look the best, and the packaging was probably a bit shoddy. But it people aren’t using them, then what’s the point?

  28. Antediluvian says:

    I read your apology comment yesterday — it was conditional, parenthetical, and preceded by “since I’m sick of this argument” so I honestly didn’t give it much weight. Perhaps you were more sincere in it than came across.

    I do not doubt your personal experience with warranties and I thought your point yesterday, once untangled, was important, valid, and thoughtful.

    I have NO insight into the DC condom project contract beyond what was in the WaPo article and my experience w/ writing and awarding contracts.

    I know that email and blog comments remove subtlety and nuance from interpersonal communication, which is why I try to make sure my writing is as clear as possible (and include a liberal use of emoticons). It’s also why I try to think the best of someone else’s writing before thinking the worst.

    You close with,
    I’m admitting I can be wrong sometimes. Are you going to disrespect that, too?

    No, I have absolutely no doubt at all that you can be wrong sometimes. :-)

  29. Antediluvian says:

    No, I have absolutely no doubt at all that you can be wrong sometimes. :-)
    I should add that I have no doubt that I can be wrong too.

  30. CyGuy says:

    @kimsama: “yesterday a bunch of buses were free all day in D.C. because “the system was down.” Not that I’m complaining…but when a city spends so much on administration and gets next to nothing in return, it’s just kinda sad.”

    DC doesn’t run it’s own buses. The public buses are run by a regional authority whose board is comprised of governments from DC, two MD counties, two VA counties and I believe either one or two VA cities. WMATA also runs the the METROrail subway system which is widely regarded as one of the best in the country. Admittedly, the buses are quite as highly regarded, but any flaws with the bus system aren’t the responsibility of the city.


    As to government contracts, most government contracts now seek to find the ‘best value’ bid, not just the lowest cost condoms that explode in purses would not be a good value. As to condoms bursting in pockets, anyone that has had a decent middle school sexed class can tell you you’re not supposed to keep condoms in your pocket in the first place.


    As to whether government should be in the condom business: governments, particularly ones at the state level (as DC is for Medicaid purposes) have to pay a lot of money for AIDS cases, other STDs and for unintended pregnancies. It is in the taxpaying public’s best interest that birth control, prophylactics against STDs and good sex education be widely and freely available to people likely to have sex outside of committed monogamous relationships.

  31. Buran says:

    @Antediluvian: I was honest. I was just wanting to get out of that mess before it got any worse than it was. I also didn’t want to offend anyone else, and I was realizing that I was actually rubbing a horrid day off on other people. I did a bad job of getting out, I admit that.

    Let’s shake on it, admit that the whole argument sucked from all sides, and move on?

  32. gibsonic says:

    btw meg, your choice of pictures is has been noted. story about condoms in DC…cue our national phallic symbol!

    sly thing you!

  33. Antediluvian says:

    Fair enough.

  34. Buran says:

    @letoofdune: Probably if they did that, someone would get offended and claim the government was promoting gay sex. Blegh. (the attitude, not the gay sex — whatever you do is your business!)

  35. Rahnee says:

    We need a contest to come up with a new picture and slogan for that condom. How about the Wash Mon wrapped in a condom and a caption that says
    “BC for D.C.’s CDs” or “BC4DCCD”
    birth control for DC’s Communicable diseases.
    d**k cover for DC
    since it IS Washington how about
    “Nixon Knickers”
    Knickers->Pants->Leg Coverings
    They could be packaged like small metal coins like another popular brand but with an embossed Nixon profile on the front and the WashMon on the back.
    Call’em NickyNix for short.

  36. jamar0303 says:

    I think I like –>

  37. jamar0303 says:

    [www.tofugu.com] <–the Japanese anti-AIDS campaign better.

  38. flowergirl says:

    sure, picture this: government hands out free faulty condoms. soon,
    news is full of reports of broken condomes leading to pregnancy, aids,
    etc. government (bush white house) can then claim that condoms do
    nothing to increase your safety and that clearly, the only choice is
    abstenance until marriage/children. sigh.

  39. Trai_Dep says:

    I’m snickering that the same people that whine and complain (then whine some more) about dropping off free fifty-cent condoms would be SO ecstatic to pay for several decades of $35k/yr AIDS medicines multiplied by several hundred (?) thousand. Per city. Yay, THAT’S smart social policy!

    It’s called enlightened self interest, guys. Look it up.

  40. @Antediluvian: Whups. I could have sworn that said that they had expired.

  41. ahwannabe says:

    @flowergirl: That’s pretty much what I was thinking. I saw a televangelist make the same claim, citing medical facts. What he failed to mention was that the warning concerned novelty condoms, which were never meant to prevent pregnancy and disease in the first place.

  42. ltlbbynthn says:

    does anyone else think it’s weird that the DC gov. thought a country with 2 billion people would know anything about condoms?