NEW YORK – Available soon from City Hall: an official New York condom in a jazzy wrapper, perhaps one printed with a colorful subway map or some other city theme.
New York City hands out 1.5 million free condoms a month in ordinary wrappers, and health officials figure people would be more likely to actually use them if the packaging were more distinctive.
"Brands work, and people use branded items more than they use non-branded items, whether it's a cola or a medicine, even," Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said.
The health department, which uses the condom program to fight AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, said it still considering package designs. Among the possibilities: a subway theme, with the various lines shown in different colors.
The 18 million free condoms each year go to hundreds of organizations, which distribute them at health clinics and advocacy groups, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, nail salons and prisons. By comparison, the Los Angeles County health department gives out just over a million condoms per year.
New York buys the condoms for 4 cents each, or $720,000 annually, health officials said.
City officials, who conduct an annual health survey, say a memorable package could also help them gauge how often people actually use the city's condom.
"If they describe our wrapper, then we'll know that they would have used our condom," Frieden said.
More than 100,000 New Yorkers have HIV or AIDS, and AIDS is the third-leading cause of death among New Yorkers under 65.