2007_03_nycloves.gifIn a Department of Health and Mental Hygiene two-fer, the DOH announced that 5 million NYC Condoms were given given away between February 14 and March 14, while the Times reveals that the DOH is also working on a campaign to promote circumcision.

The condoms, which the city handed out to the public on Valentine's Day and distributed to community organizations and stores, are a "sensation" according to Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden. Frieden said, "I commend them for doing their part to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies, and I urge anyone who wants an NYC Condom to visit www.nyccondom.org or call 311." Local businesses also say the condoms are great (being free and having a cute design work!).

And after the World Health Organization's recommendation that "Male circumcision should be part of a comprehensive HIV prevention package," the DOH is working on its own policy. The Times says that the DOH is asking the Health and Hospital Corporation, "which runs city hospitals...to perform the procedure at no charge for men without health insurance," while asking community and gay rights groups to discuss circumcision. There's some question whether data from African populations that the WHO used for its recommendation can be used to make assumptions about NYC's population.

Peter Staley, a longtime AIDS activist and co-founder of ACT-UP New York, the Treatment Action Group and AIDSmeds.com, said he was “intrigued” by the idea of offering circumcisions but worried because those in the studies supporting it bore little relation to New York’s risk groups.

“Should we proceed when we don’t have hard data yet on the population here?” he asked. “On the other hand, if we wait the three years it would take to answer that question, how many will be infected in the meantime?”

Also, after reading many postings on gay Web sites about the Africa trials, he said he feared a backlash among black and Hispanic men to endorsements of circumcision from white public health officials or gay activists.

“I’m white, Frieden’s white,” he said. “It’s going to sound like white guys telling black and Hispanic guys to do something that would affect their manhood.”

Frieden emphasized that NYC is the epicenter for the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. Here's the DOH's website on AIDS/HIV in NYC; the city has free and confidential STD clinics in all five boroughs.

The graphic is from the Department of Health - really