Four months after introducing its custom-labeled Freedom Condom, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health has distributed more than one million free prophylactics and is on target to give out 2.5 million this year, up from 1 million last year, the agency said Thursday.
The campaign is aimed at adolescents, whose high rates of sexually transmitted diseases and low rates of safe sex put them at particular risk of contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Most of the condoms have been distributed through local community and health centers, barber shops and other retailers; the city’s new youth-focused web site, TakeControlPhilly.org, has handled more than 1,700 condom mail orders.
The city announcement came on the same day that researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a demographic analysis of HIV infection specifically among heterosexuals in 24 urban areas with high rates of the disease, including Philadelphia. Although the analysis combined data from all the locations, the results help explain Philadelphia’s rates of HIV, which have long been among the highest in the country.
The key finding: Poverty and other socio-economic factors were so strongly linked to HIV status that they effectively wiped out the stark difference in rates between whites, blacks, and Hispanics, and even between people who used crack cocaine or exchanged sex for money and those who did not.
Overall, the report found, 2 percent of low-income heterosexuals in its sample from cities that are known to have high rates of HIV were infected with the disease — 10 to 20 times the rate in the U.S. population as a whole.
Separate data collected by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health shows that the city’s overall infection rate — based on a far broader population than was included in the new federal report — is about 1.2 percent.
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