September 11 — 12:00 am, 2008

ACT UP: Condom availability is an urgent student health issue

activism Photo: Kaylee Riek

The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) kicked off a summer campaign with a June 10 march from School District headquarters to City Hall, asking both the District and the mayor’s office to “save lives” by supporting expanded condom distribution in public high schools.

Only 13 out of the 61 high schools in Philadelphia have Health Resource Centers, which provide condoms as well as counseling and information on sexual health issues.

Condom distribution in high schools was first approved by a school board vote in 1991, in response to an ACT UP campaign and the HIV crisis. But 17 years later, that controversial decision has yet to be fully enacted.

Two years ago, ACT UP resumed work on the issue in response to rising HIV infection rates among high schoolaged populations.

“Philadelphia is behind,” said Sam Sitrin, an ACT UP member. “Since 1991, Philadelphia has had this policy in a trial stage without full implementation.”

The current program relies on funding through the city health department.

“We know now that there is condom distribution in a small portion of the School District,” said Douglas Oliver, Mayor Nutter’s spokesperson. “We are supportive of expanding that program districtwide, and our health department under the leadership of Deputy Mayor Donald Schwarz is working on this issue.”

Oliver added that the city is working to identify funding for the expansion.

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