January 04, 2000 02:14am
West Hollywood Nixes Condom Giveaway
(WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA) - A proposal to order bars and nightclubs to hand out condoms to high-risk customers has been soundly defeated before the city council.
Voting 5-0 on Monday night in this tolerant Southern California enclave, the council decided unanimously to continue instead with a voluntary giveaway program and buy 50,000 additional condoms for distribution.
The mandatory program would have required condoms to be distributed at places of business with liquor licenses, adult businesses, coffee houses and nonprofit organizations serving those most at risk for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
The city, which has an active nightlife, could have imposed fines for noncompliance.
After more than two hours of discussion, council members decided that making gay bars give their customers condoms was not the best way to fight the spread of disease.
``Mandatory condom distribution does not adequately address the issue of safe sex,'' said Councilman Steve Martin. ``A fish bowl of condoms just doesn't compare to aggressive street outreach and one-on-one education.''
Health advocates disagreed.
``It's not an imposition to have a condom made available to you in a city whose principal economy is nightlife-driven,'' said Ged Kensela, spokesman for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
Some club and restaurant owners said they objected to forced distribution.
``To make it mandatory would be discriminating (against gay businesses),'' said John St. Jar, whose bar has been voluntarily distributing condoms for eight years.
Last year the city distributed 300,000 condoms to about 30 nightclubs, where owners voluntarily placed them in containers at entrances.