Dallas County Begins Free Condom Distribution

After 14 year ban, health workers have a new tool to prevent disease.

There's a new tool on board the Dallas County Mobile Medical Clinic: Free condoms.

For years, public health care workers have taken the van into communities, testing people for a battery of sexually transmitted diseases including syphilis, HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea, but until now, they could not hand out condoms as a form of prevention.

"This is an extra element to say, 'Use safe sex. Use protection and here are the tools for you to use them," said Marisa Gonzales, with Dallas County Health and Human Services.

The ban on condom distribution was lifted last week after heated debate among county commissioners.

Dallas County was the last county in the state to still have such a ban and public health experts cited increasing rates of infection in high-risk zip codes and among certain age groups in their plea to have the ban removed.

"We have to be real about the discussion and talk about prevention," said Zachary Thompson, with Dallas County Health and Human Services.

Dallas residents we talked to seem to be in favor of the change.

"If they're sick, they should be able to help themselves and help other people from catching the disease," said Ben Fuller.

"I think it [the ban] was completely misguided, and I'm glad it's over with," said Louise Young.

The question that still looms is how well the free condoms will actually work to prevent the spread of diseases.

"It's going to have to be a behavioral change, but if they've got a dozen partners and if they can just use condoms on two of their partners, at least those are small steps toward a larger change," said Gonzales. 

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