Finally! Finally, the truth about condoms was coming out. In the newspaper. Everyone would finally hear the truth about condoms.
This meant I could get my life back. I could quit researching and writing about condoms and sex education. I could return to my garden and plant flowers instead.
For the past five years, I had spent hours in the library and at the keyboard. On the telephone, I interviewed sex educators from all parts of the country. Interviews were transcribed, and information was organized into file folders. And I was on the plane, now, headed for a Miami conference on sex education.
Condoms were the culprit. At the time, with HIV/AIDS taking hold in our culture, we had very little knowledge about the disease. People were dying, and we still didn’t have the whole story about how they contracted HIV or when we might have a cure.
Condoms were our only ally. Condoms protect. Use a condom. Use a condom consistently and correctly…every time…everywhere…put a basket of condoms in the bathroom, in the school office…everywhere! Now! Use a condom!
Condoms made us feel safe. We could still have all the sex we wanted…with whomever we wanted…as long as we used a condom…consistently and correctly. Our sex was safe. Protected. We were protected…and safe!
Linking arms with Planned Parenthood, SIECUS and state health departments, the CDC gave its nod to wrapping the United States up in one giant condom campaign for “SAFE SEX”:
- 2000, Planned Parenthood Ohio held a condom giveaway – a bright yellow coupon redeemable for free condoms and a MacDonald’s gift certificate.
- 2000, Planned Parenthood Southern Arizona spent $100,000 on “Use Condom Sense” campaign that featured billboards on buses showing a 13-year-old girl holding up a condom. Included in the campaign, 19 condom machines were placed in teen hang-outs, including the Tucson Parks and Recreation Department.
- 2002, Planned Parenthood celebrated the introduction of The Planned Parenthood Condom with a coupon for a free condom – or – four free condoms if you paid for STD and/or HIV testing.
- 2006, Planned Parenthood sponsored a condom art contest.
- 2006, Planned Parenthood offered condoms packaged like lollipops and promoted condom key chains.
- 2006, Planned Parenthood Michigan’s teen program held condom art workshops. “Make a beautiful creation out of condoms, find out all the facts on using condoms correctly, and get a free gift.”
Promoting condoms came at a price…paid by the US taxpayers…a staggering sum of dollars handed out through government grants. One report documented over $2,000,000 dividedbetween Planned Parenthood ($991,109) and four other organizations. Grabbing every dollar possible, the ACLU, SIECUS and 32 groups held a press conference designed to stop funding of abstinence programs.
Promoting condoms, finally a national pastime, left little money or incentive for the government to deliver another message to teens…abstain from sex. In fact, messages that encouraged sexual abstinence for teens were mocked. In extreme outbursts of hostility, legislators even accused abstinence programs of “killing teens.”
Ironically, as king of the SAFE SEX condom campaign, Planned Parenthood failed the condom tests performed by Consumer Reports Magazine. Of the 23 condoms tested, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Honeydew and Assorted Colors condoms scored the worst. Not taking this lying down, Planned Parenthood submitted their condoms to “independent testing.” Anyone surprised that Planned Parenthood then proclaimed their condoms “excellent”?
Condoms made us feel safe. Our sex was safe. Protected. We were protected…and safe!
At a college presentation on Valentine’s Day, a young man stood at the front of the crowded auditorium, raised his right hand and spoke for all Americans, “I pledge allegiance to the condom.”
Now, finally, twenty years after HIV struck America…
Finally, sitting on the plane bound for Miami, I read the national story on condoms again and closed my eyes in gratitude. “Finally,” I told myself, “someone is paying attention to the truthabout condoms. The press is finally reporting on the medical truths about condoms.”
NEXT WEEK: The CDC: Dereliction of Duty, Part 3, The Truth about Condoms…Finally!